Not to be confused at any point RAWA, also known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, does not actually restore anything at this point, nor is it an active US gambling law. This is understood in the sense that the bill does not reinstate any previously enacted policy but rather creates a new policy to establish a twisted and self-serving law which would ban all online gambling.
This bill was orchestrated by anti-gambling lawmakers and brick and mortar casino billionaires in 2014 to seek an end to online gambling which would further benefit their own motives. Since multiple states have already invested in an online gambling industry within their borders, the damage to their economies would be devastating should the bill be made law.
What is RAWA?
RAWA is a proposed US bill which is written to federally overturn actions and interpretations made by the DOJ in 2011 regarding the Federal Wire Act. The DOJ historically interpreted the Wire Act to prohibit all online gambling during the early 2000’s. After the DOJ reinterpreted the Wire Act, anti-gambling legislators have pushed RAWA on the House, Senate, and Congressional floor, as well as, the Justice Department.
RAWA is written to directly attack state-regulated online operators. The effects of RAWA could drastically damage the US online gaming market and set land-based casinos with integrated online portals back years to technological infancy.
However, RAWA is designed to exempt the following gambling forms: in-person lottery sales, daily fantasy sports, and online horse betting. State-sanctioned online lotteries, online gambling, and online poker would be made illegal upon RAWA’s passing.
Why Does RAWA Exist?
The Restoration of America’s Wire Act exists to rewrite the 1961 Federal Wire Act to prohibit all forms of online gambling domestically and abroad. Various physical gambling venue owners and anti-gambling lawmakers have banded together to fund campaigns and support for RAWA.
States with active online gambling operations would have to cease business immediately if RAWA were passed, which would hurt these states’ internal economies. Therefore, states such as Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are rightfully concerned over the progress and movement behind RAWA.
Who Supports RAWA?
Sands casino owner Sheldon Adelson is allegedly the largest funder and heaviest driver of the RAWA movement, more than likely to benefit his businesses by reducing competition via internet wagering. As detailed by early bill drafts Adelson authored and lobbied the Internet Gambling Control Act, a predecessor to RAWA.
Outside of Adelson’s support, RAWA is backed by US Senators Graham and Feinstein who sent a bi-partisan letter to the DOJ to revisit the Wire Act and reverse their Memo. Various anti-gambling campaigns were also released and are sure to increase as states actively pursue legal state-regulated online gambling.
The Possibility of RAWA Becoming Law
Proponents of RAWA have already attempted to establish the law by attaching it to a must-pass legislation much like the UIGEA was passed. However, the must-pass legislation that was eyed at the time passed without RAWA’s attachment to it.Nevertheless, strong pushes have come from the floor of Congress, Senators, and lawmakers nearly every year and intensified as the legalization of sports betting and more online gambling opportunities arise.
The reintroduction of RAWA has many individuals invested in the industry upset over the impending implications of RAWA if passed. However, under the Trump administration, RAWA’s fate is unknown. Midterm congressional elections could also have an effect on the bill's support.
While U.S. President, entrepreneur, and casino investor Donald Trump is expected to favor pro-gambling positions as a casino mogul himself, various criticisms have emerged as monetary ties between Adelson and Trump surfaced and Trump’s pro-business policies seem to change based on monetary pressure by influencers. Even more, concern presses at Attorney General Jeff Session's distaste for online gambling via the DOJ 2011 opinion could result in some legitimacy and progress for RAWA.
Hurdles RAWA Faces
Thankfully, there is a silver lining as RAWA may never become law due to these key issues: lackluster political and congressional interest concerning online gambling, Adelson’s public support for RAWA and ties to Trump provide serious conflicts of interest, worries of violation over state’s rights, and general oppositions from state lottery operators and casino owners.
Furthermore, as proven in the past with PASPA and even the prohibition era, federal bans only send demand up and flourish underground markets for the prohibited goods and services. Not only this, states with online gambling will vehemently defend their new investments which stimulate their economies, further progress growth, create jobs, and provide tax earnings. It is not certain that we’ve seen the last of RAWA as political corruption, influence, and pressure could sway RAWA closer toward approval.