Grover Norquist’s AFR and 10 Other Conservative Groups Speak Out Against RAWA

Sheldon AdelsonIt should come as no surprise that online gambling is suddenly a hot button issue in the halls of Congress. When Sheldon Adelson talks people listen.

Especially when those people received Adelson Bucks (spendable only during political campaigns)  that assisted them on their journey to the nation’s capitol. But Adelson isn’t the only political power player with clout in the Republican caucus, and one of the most influential just came out in opposition to Adelson’s crusade against online gambling, Grover Norquist.

Norquist is the President of the Americans for Tax Reform group, and is one of the most politically powerful people in Republican politics, on par with the NRA, Americans for Prosperity, or the Heritage Foundation. Back in 2011 Lawrence O’Donnell called Norquist “the most powerful man in America” for his ability to guide tax policy in the United States, and the unwavering control he has over Republican lawmakers.

Whether you agree with his politics or not, Norquist is someone you would want fighting for your cause, and this was the early Christmas present online gaming proponents received on Thursday.

In a story that first appeared in the Washington Post, Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, along with 10 other conservative groups, signed a letter opposing Adelson’s efforts to legislate online gambling at the federal level – although it should be noted the letter doesn’t mention Adelson by name.

What the letter says

The letter focuses on the state’s rights issues the Restoration of Americas Wire Act (RAWA) creates, as well as the opposition’s misrepresentation of the 1961 Wire Act’s historical application to online gambling, citing a recent paper from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas by Competitive Enterprise Institute Fellow, Michelle Minton.

“While RAWA supporters contend that this legislation is a simple fix to 53 year old Wire Act legislation on sports betting, RAWA attempts to apply federal sports betting regulations to online gambling – even though this legislation was created decades before the invention of the internet.

[…]

“Minton documents the original debate regarding the Wire Act and shows that Congress had a very narrow intent for the legislation because of the same federalism concerns that exist today. Courts have repeatedly upheld that intent, which was the basis of the Justice Department’s 2011 opinion of the law.”

You can read a full copy of the letter here.

RAWA’s prognosis

Following the midterm elections online gambling proponents were on a heightened sense of alert.

Rumors of a House Judiciary hearing on Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) Restoration of Americas Wire Act (RAWA) were in the ether, as were rumors of a potential deal between Senate Majority Harry Reid (D-NV) and some of his Republican colleagues.

And then, just as the sky grew darkest, a ray of sunlight shone through. And then more, and more, and more.

The new coalition of conservative opposition to RAWA comes on the heels of Libertarian Ron Paul’s scathing rebuke of Adeslon’s efforts in his own op-ed earlier this week, and the unofficial scuttling of the proposed House Judiciary hearing on RAWA.

While it’s still possible for RAWA (or some version of the legislation) to pass, with the attention this issue is receiving, it’s unlikely RAWA could be attached to a piece of “must pass” legislation as some have suggested.

This was the case with UIGEA back in 2006, but in 2006  online gambling was an obscure issue. In 2014 online gambling is clearly a hot topic of debate and something power players on both sides are keeping tabs on.

RAWA is not dead, but it’s on life support.

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