Growing Opposition To RAWA Bill To Ban Internet Gambling

Opponents of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) cited the Tenth Amendment, givings states the authority to determine whether internet gambling is allowed, and assert that proponents are empowering big government. While the bill has the support of two presidential candidates who are sponsors, it has attracted opposition from another candidate for the GOP nomination for president, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the Congress and Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in the U.S. Senate. RAWA would restore the previous interpretation of the Wire Act, and effectively would ban just about all forms of gambling on the internet.

There is growing conservative opposition to RAWA based largely on Tenth Amendment arguments, and it concerns the act would give government more control over the internet.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who is also a candidate for the GOP nomination for president as are Graham and Rubio, opposes RAWA. Paul recently stated he is “opposed to restrictions on online gambling. The government needs to stay out of that business.”

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) opposes RAWA and stated that banning internet-based gambling would be no more effective than prohibition of alcohol, asserting that such a ban would create an underground market for internet-based gambling, the Huffington Post reported.

Opposing RAWA as well as banning internet-based gambling, Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) might also introduce legislation to legalize internet-based gambling at the federal level, Legal US PokerSites reports. Barton introduced the Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2013 in Congress in June of 2013.

The American Conservative Union opposes RAWA and issued a statement about the bill and it’s sponsorship by Rep. Chaffetz stating, “Jason Chaffetz is a good conservative with an American Conservative Union lifetime rating of 94 percent,” said ACU Executive Director Dan Schneider, “However, we are disappointed that on this issue he is taking the side of big government.”

Schneider further stated that conservatives don’t have to agree on the issue of gambling itself, but should agree on deciding the issue at the state level and keeping big government out of federal regulating gambling, especially if that reason is only to protect gambling interests in Las Vegas.

Conservative activist Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, opposes the enacting of RAWA along with several other conservative and libertarian leaders, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and nine other conservative and libertarian leaders: Larry Hart, American Conservative Union; John Tate, Campaign for Liberty; Andrew Langer, Institute for Liberty; Steve Pociask, American Consumer Institute; Gary Johnson, Our America Initiative; Katie McAuliffe, Digital Liberty; Tom Giovanetti, Institute of Policy Innovation;David Williams, Taxpayers Protection Alliance; Jeff Mazzella, Center for Individual Freedom, and Andrew F. Quinlin, Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

A letter written by those organizations, and sent to GOP leaders in Congress, in opposition to RAWA states, “Regardless of your personal opinions on gambling, we encourage you to preserve the authority of the states to prohibit or regulate gambling as the 10th Amendment directs…The real intention of this bill is to remove the state’s 10th Amendment authority to regulate online gambling as states see fit within their own borders. We hope you will not allow RAWA to become yet another instance where the federal government expands its encroachment into the states’ purview. State governments are more than capable of making this decision.”

Writing for The Daily Caller on the issue of RAWA, Katie McAuliffe, Executive Director of Digital Liberty, argues that the bill proposed by Sens. Graham and Rubio violates the Tenth Amendment and intrudes on state sovereignty.

“A bill in this Congress, the ‘Restore America’s Wire Act’ (RAWA), goes in the wrong direction. While online gambling is a contentious issue, the bill, introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), oversteps the constitutional principle of federalism by banning state regulation of online gambling, chipping away at the constitutional balance between state and federal governance,” writes McAuliffe, “While gambling can be a contentious issue, this fact actually makes it more appropriate that the issue be decided at the state level, instead of a one-size-fits-all federal approach.”

An organization called “Downsize DC” is also leading a grass-roots campaign to encourage citizens to contact their members of Congress and Senators to oppose RAWA. Downsize DC is asking citizens to remind their representatives to support their interests rather than those of Sheldon Adelson who “wants to eliminate competition for his casinos” the campaign says, and to remind representatives that they work for the people, and that their “job is to support the Constitution, which leaves matters like gambling to the states and the people. The Tenth Amendment says so.”

The two senate sponsors of RAWA, Sens. Graham and Rubio, have been supported by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Republican donor Adelson, who has donated or helped raise funds in the past for both Graham and Rubio, strongly supports the bill and says society should be protected against online gambling.

Writing for FreedomWorks, Julie Borowski criticized Adelson, pointing out his support for RAWA and his statement that internet gambling is “a threat to society – a toxin which all good people ought resist.” Borowski wrote that Adelson’s comment “seems like an odd statement to make for someone who owns… a casino company.” Adelson is the chairman and chief executive of the Las Vegas Sands casino. Borowski further wrote that the real story of Adelson’s support for RAWA is because “he doesn’t want to compete with new forms of gambling (online). So, he’s running to Washington to get a little help from his corrupt politician friends… In return, he’ll give them some $$$.”

A group of Democratic state senators from New York have issued a statement opposing RAWA. The group of state senators are urging New York’s Congressional delegation to vote against RAWA in Congress.

RAWA has not yet advanced out of committees in the House and Senate, but Adelson and his allies in Washington D.C. haven’t given up the fight. Will grass-roots opposition to RAWA from citizens and a coalition of conservative and progressive activists stop Congress from sending RAWA to to the president? That remains to be seen in the coming months.

[Photos of Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham from official portraits of the senators from their profiles on Wikipedia]