RAWA Counter Bill Might Soon Be Brought to House Floor

March 30th, 2015 | by Kaycee James
RAWA Rep. Joe Barton Internet Poker Freedom Act

RAWA could soon meet counter legislation from Tex Rep. Joe Barton’s Internet Poker Freedom Act, a bill that could potentially legalize online poker in all 50 states. (Image: govtrack.us)

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) hearing last Wednesday by a Judiciary House Subcommittee to debate whether the Wire Act needs to be restored to effectively outlaw online gambling could soon be opposed by a pro iPoker bill.

US Representative Joe Barton (R-Texas) is reportedly in the process of upping the ante on his Internet Poker Freedom Act (IPFA) for a third time.

Backed by several advocacy groups including the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) and both Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts International, Barton’s two previous attempts at legalizing online poker were unsuccessful.

However, with RAWA recently taking center stage in Congress, and Pennsylvania, New York, and California all currently discussing iGaming, perhaps now more than ever is the appropriate time to push for the passage of Internet poker.

RAWA Cray-Cray

Barton’s 2011 and 2013 Internet Poker Freedom Act bills petitioned to build an online poker regulatory framework on the federal level that states could tap into should its citizens and lawmakers deem appropriate. IPFA, although specific to poker, would open up the market to all 50 states, with protections in place to keep the industry safe and hopefully diminish the game’s underground in the process.

The 65-year-old politician has criticized RAWA, saying he’s “adamantly opposed” and that the proposition is “trying to hold the ocean back.” RAWA’s goal is the exact opposite from the IPFA; it would ban all transmissions of Internet wagering, with the goal of an online gambling prohibition.

Witnesses who testified at the RAWA hearing were in favor of the bill 3-2, but the five-person panel consisted of three allies of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire Vegas magnate who is the driving force behind the measure. The reaction from the testimony was almost as one-sided as the hearing itself.

Summaries following RAWA included:

“RAWA Short on Facts, Long on Fear” PokerNewsDaily

“RAWA House Subcommittee Hearing Pits Fiction and Fear Against Facts…” PokerSites.com

“Anti-Gambling Witnesses Stumble Through RAWA Hearing” Bluff Magazine

Daniel Negreanu @RealKidPoker: “Being well spoken or having an understanding of the topic you are debating is not required to be a politician. #ThingsIveLearned2day #RAWA”

Third Time Charm? 

60 million people play poker in the United States, with as many as 15 million playing online for both real and play money according to the PPA. With an unregulated or banned market, rogue operators will continue to cater to Americans from offshore sites that can be potentially dangerous.

Barton, a regular poker play, says he’s forced to travel to the Sooner State to play cash games since Texas’ commercial casino prohibition continues. “I go to Oklahoma about every three or four months to play poker,” he says. “I have yet to sit at a poker table at Winstar (a casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma) with someone who is not from Texas.”

With a billionaire backer and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introducing RAWA to their respective houses, online poker needs its own lawmaker to lead the legislative charge. “It’s very ironic that Texas hold’em poker is played everywhere legally except in Texas,” Barton states. “But one of these days that will change.”

Barton is expected to reintroduce the IPFA in the next month or so, a move that could cause further divide among GOP politicians who have taken up the subject of iGaming.

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