The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) was going to be introduced to the United States Senate: it was only a matter of time, and we have even known which senator would bring up the legislation for a while now.
But on Wednesday, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) made it official, introducing RAWA as a bill known as S1668.
The Senate version of RAWA is identical to the one that was introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives by Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
It is also the same bill that was introduced by Graham last year in the Senate.
RAWA would implement a large-scale ban of many online gambling activities at the federal level by clarifying that the Wire Act applies to all gambling practices, and not just sports betting.
This would include online poker and casino games and include carve outs for the horse racing industry and fantasy sports.
The bill’s impact on online lottery sales is less clear. Many state lottery officials have criticized RAWA, as it would ban the offerings unless an additional carve out was made for such games.
That carve out is largely absent in the current bill, but could easily become an area of compromise if the bill ever gained serious traction.
RAWA is strongly supported by casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has made it his crusade to stop online gambling in the United States.
However, the bill has divided Republicans who want Adelson’s support against those who oppose the bill on states’ rights grounds; on the other side of the aisle, while there are supporters of the measure among Democrats, they seem to be few in number.
The introduction of RAWA was going to be a controversial move for Graham, who is seeking the GOP nomination for the 2016 presidential election.
However, while Graham may have hoped that slipping the bill in on a busy week would minimize coverage of the legislation, the timing may have actually caused an entirely different controversy.
Congress adjourned earlier this week to allow government officials time to attend services for the victims of the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church of Charleston, in Graham’s home state of South Carolina.
However, Graham chose to introduce the bill on Wednesday nonetheless, provoking a strong response from Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas.
“As the eyes of the nation are focused on South Carolina following the recent tragic event, I think I speak for most Americans when I express profound disappointment in Senator Graham for choosing this time to advance a bill for sole benefit of a billionaire political donor,” Pappas said.
Pappas was busy on Wednesday not only reacting to Graham’s introduction of RAWA, but also testifying about online poker at a hearing in California.
Pappas spoke on behalf of the PPA in front of the California General Assembly’s Committee on Governmental Organization.
“Any effort to regulate Internet poker should not be viewed as an expansion of gambling in California, but rather as an opportunity to better protect consumers,” Pappas testified. “Today, citizens of this state have access to online poker, online casino games and online sports betting—but they play on foreign sites, none of which are properly licensed or regulated by this government.”