Nevada Attorney General Supports Sheldon Adelson’s RAWA
Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt surprised some people Tuesday when he told Nevada newsman Jon Ralston on “Ralston Live” that he plans to sign a petition in support of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). RAWA, a federal bill drawn up by Las Vegas Sands Corp CEO Sheldon Adelson and his team, would render most online gambling, poker included, illegal in the United States. Nevada is one of three states – New Jersey and Nevada being the others – that has legalized and regulated online poker. While the relatively small population of the state has resulted in in a rather disappointing online poker industry, it is still something and any promise for the future would be dashed with the passage of the bill.
The petition was started by Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and is circulating amongst the other U.S. Attorneys General. The petition will eventually be sent, along with a letter, to the leadership of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Judiciary Committees, urging them to support RAWA. A similar petition went around last year and garnered about a dozen signatures.
In the interview, Ralston said to Laxalt, “That would seem to me the reverse of what Adam Laxalt usually says. That’s letting the federal government intrude on something that’s a states’ rights issue. We have an internet poker law here, this would directly go against that. Did you lose your way here, federal versus state?”
There’s a couple giant exceptions to this, alright? One is Congress spoke on this issue and had an existing Wire Act, ok? And then Attorney General Holder issued an opinion a few days before Christmas some years ago and changed that landscape. He changed that landscape without gaming companies, without law enforcement, without all the parties that should’ve been involved to make sure that we can keep consumers safe and all this can be done properly. So, I think obviously in this case we’re looking to return it back to what the status quo was, that Congress passed, and, you know, the other thing is obviously gaming is a different animal. You know, you have, you need to know where the sources of money are coming from and you need to make sure you can police this area.
Shortly after the interview, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval responded, expressing his disappointment in his Attorney General. Ralston posted Sandoval’s reaction on his blog at RalstonReports.com:
The gaming industry is changing and in order for Nevada’s businesses to maintain a competitive edge internationally, we must enact policies that allow the industry to meet the demands of a younger, more technologically engaged gamer. The groundbreaking online gaming bill previously passed by the legislature provides local businesses with an environment where they can grow and prosper. This measure also ensures our regulatory bodies, which are considered the best in the world, will continue to develop policies that will ensure Nevada remains the global epicenter for gaming development
Furthermore, as a former Attorney General, Gaming Commission Chairman and someone who worked with the industry and the Legislature on Nevada’s online poker legislation, I am very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law in our leading industry. At its core, this is a state’s rights issue and I disagree with the Attorney General that a federal government one-size-fits-all solution is in the best interest of Nevada.
A.G. Burnett, commissioner of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, had similar feelings, saying that online gambling should be up to the states, not the federal government, to legislate. “To my knowledge, RAWA contains no nationwide geo-fencing from offshore gaming operators,” he added. “Also, I am concerned about the chaos that will erupt if RAWA exempts certain forms of fantasy sports, particularly the unregulated industry of daily fantasy sports. Such a carve-out might allow DFS, which is clearly a form of gaming, to operate that gaming without any regulatory oversight, including consumer protection, audits, law enforcement mechanisms and suitability for licensing standards.”
So why would Laxalt support RAWA? The answer is likely politics and money. Laxalt was supported financially by Sheldon Adelson during his run for Attorney General, so this is almost certainly a return favor. Laxalt told Ralston that he has not spoken to Adelson about the petition, but that claim is dubious at best.
Additionally, and this one is fun, Laxalt’s sister, Therese “Tessa” Laxalt, works for the lobbying firm, j3Strategies. According to an article by Haley Hintze on Flushdraw.com in October, both the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and Adelson’ Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) organization are j3’s largest clients. Tessa Laxalt is one of just four lobbyists shown on the “About” page of j3’s website.
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