Lindsey Graham Reintroduces RAWA in the US Senate

Graham-080106-18270- 0005Wednesday afternoon saw a flurry of activity regarding online gambling.

While California was busy debating legalizing online poker, word came down that South Carolina Senator and Presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham had officially reintroduced the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill in the United States Senate. RAWA would ban several forms of online gambling including online casino games and online poker.

The reintroduction of RAWA was not overly surprising considering Graham has been indicating he would reintroduce the bill as far back as February, and has been courting Sheldon Adelson’s favor as he makes his run for the highest office in the land.

Also of note, Graham isn’t the only presidential hopeful backing the bill. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is one of the listed cosponsors of the RAWA, along with the usual cast of anti-online gambling characters, Senators Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Mike Lee (R-UT), as well as Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Dan Coats (R-IN).

Timing of the bill called into question

John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, questioned the timing of Graham, noting that the bill was reintroduced after Congress adjourned early to pay their respects following the tragic incident that occurred in Graham’s home state of South Carolina. “Congress made the decision to adjourn early so they could attend services on Friday in Senator Graham’s home-state. Unfortunately, Senator Graham has not reset his priorities and picked a very unfortunate time to engage in the Internet gaming debate.”

“I think I speak for most Americans when I express profound disappointment in Senator Graham for choosing this time to advance a bill for the sole benefit of a billionaire political donor ,” Pappas said in a press release issued on Wednesday.

Lottery issue unresolved

A lot of the chatter surrounding the senate version of RAWA centered around online lottery sales. State lottery officials have been highly critical of RAWA.

RAWA’s potential impact on state lotteries led to some speculation that Graham was reticent to reintroduce the bill without a lottery carveout. However, this carveout would open an entirely new can of worms for the already controversial bill, as critics were already calling RAWA a bill that picks winners and losers. Adding yet another carveout (RAWA exempts horseracing and fantasy sports) would only enhance this argument.

In the end, Graham’s RAWA 2015 includes a lottery carveout, but the carveout is little more than a morsel of what lottery officials were calling for, as it only allows states to continue to use the Internet in processing the sale of lottery tickets at brick & mortar lottery retailers.

the concession Graham made in RAWA 2015 is unlikely to sway state and lottery officials to his side.

Can it pass?

RAWA is seen by many analysts as a long shot to begin with, and with the House and Senate versions now possessing divergent language the bill becomes even harder to pass, as the two chambers of Congress would now have to reconcile the differences between the two versions and create a unified bill.

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who sponsored RAWA in the House of Representatives, is on record as not supporting a lottery carveout. Chaffetz reportedly had an extremely contentious conference call with state lottery officials earlier this year.

More importantly, Sheldon Adelson is reportedly against a lottery carveout, as LVS spokesman Andy Abboud told GamblingCompliance in March that his boss had “no appetite” for a lottery carveout.

Graham’s reintroduction of RAWA certainly cannot be seen as a positive development for online gaming advocates, but at the same time, the differences between the two bills throws yet another roadblock in the bill’s path.

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