New Anti-Online Gambling Bill Introduced in Senate
Perhaps the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) is still a threat. In a surprise move on Friday, Senator Tom Cotton (R – Ark) filed a bill that appears to revive Sheldon Adelson’s efforts to ban online gambling in the United States.
- 3376 has a lengthy title:
A bill to ensure the integrity of laws enacted to prevent the use of financial instruments for funding or operating online casinos are not undermined by legal opinions not carrying the force of law issued by Federal Government lawyers.
That first part, which includes, “laws enacted to prevent the use of financial instruments for funding or operating online casinos,” is a reference to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, which prohibits the back and forth of funds between banks and “illegal” online gambling sites. Though many poker sites and networks withdrew from the U.S. of the UIGEA was passed, several, such as PokerStars, stayed, getting around the law by hiding the source of transactions. After Black Friday in 2011, much of that trickery also stopped and though some sites that aren’t licensed in the U.S. still accept U.S. customers, they are certainly not as prevalent as they once were. Nonetheless, it is still possible to get money to offshore sites, so it appears that this bill wants to put extra teeth into the UIGEA.
The second part of the title is what RAWA was all about. In late 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion, clarifying that the Wire Act only made sports betting over the internet illegal, not all forms of gambling. Prior to this, the DoJ interpreted the Wire Act as applying to all online gaming, even though it clearly only states that it applies to sports betting. This clarification opened up states to launch their own internet gambling industries and to this point, Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada have done just that.
With RAWA, Sheldon Adelson and cronies aimed to “restore” the previous, incorrect interpretation of the Wire Act and make online gambling officially illegal. The part of S. 3376 that reads “casinos are not undermined by legal opinions not carrying the force of law issued by Federal Government lawyers” refers to Adelson’s outrage at the OLC’s 2011 opinion.
Save one other paragraph (referencing the OLC opinion), the rest of the bill has yet to be written. Fortunately for Cotton and Adelson, though, that doesn’t matter right now. By getting this filed, it could be added as a rider to other legislation, even if there is no time to get it through the legislative process by itself before the end of the year (at which point the bill would die).
In addition to Cotton, Senator Mike Lee (R – Utah) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R – SC) have cosponsored the bill. Graham was the one who introduced RAWA in the Senate while Lee hails from the same state as Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah), the Congressman who introduced RAWA in the House of Representatives.
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