Ten US State Attorneys General Offer Support for Latest RAWA-Style Push

Ten US state-level attorneys general, each the highest ranking legal official in his state, have co-signed a letter of support urging the incoming Trump administration to take action to overturn the 2011 Department of Justice opinion authored by then-US Attorney General Eric Holder that declared the US’s 1961 Wire Act to be applicable only to sports wagering and not to other forms of online gambling.

white-houseThe action the letter calls for is equivalent to that of the “RAWA” (Restore America’s Wire Act) bills that have been floated in both houses of Congress in recent years.  The latest iteration of the RAWA legislation in S. 3376, which was introduced in September and remains in committee.

As for the letter, it was dated November 17, 2016 and was sent to Vice President-elect Mike Pence and the “Trump transition team,” becoming public knowledge yesterday.  The text of the letter is believed to have been authored by lobbyists from Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp.  Adelson and the Sands Corp. were responsible for another call-to-action letter supporting a RAWA-style push back in 2014.  About ten state-level attorneys general also signed that letter.

The fact that this letter was addressed to VP-elect Pence is also telling. Pence has already publicly supported Adelson’s various anti-online gambling efforts, as opposed to President-elect Donald Trump, who was formerly a casino owner and who may not share Adelson’s profit-minded antipathy to online gambling.

As has been the case with previous missives issued from Adelson’s camp, the letter contains plenty of misrepresentations and untruths.  That will hardly matter, since it’s already heading to the friendly eyes and ears of VP-elect Pence:

Here’s a sample excerpt from the latest, containing the usual fear-mongering and falsehoods:

Anonymity is the Internet’s greatest weapon and the federal government has the resources and oversight necessary to truly address the dangers of online gambling and protect the American people.

State officials have worked diligently to lobby Congress to overturn the DOJ [Wire Act] interpretation, but they need your help.  The next administration, led by President-elect Donald Trump, has an opportunity to undo the dangerous precedent set by the Obama Administration.  The 2011 opinion ignored the rule of law, reversed DOJ’s previous longstanding interpretations, and allowed arbitrary decisions of individual government officials to create law. …

In addition to the grandiose posturing, it’s just not true.  Maybe some state officials have worked to overturn Holder’s 2011 DOJ opinion, but not many.  A large majority of state-level officials, including various states’ attorneys general, are on record as saying that gambling matters are a states-rights issue, and not the purview of an overreaching federal government.  That’s why both this letter and the earlier 2014 version could assembly only 10 signatories, when all 50 US states’ attorneys general were canvassed for inclusion.

The ten states’ attorneys general who signed this latest letter are also a representative selection of the US’s hardest anti-gambling states, with one or two interesting entries.  All are Republicans.  The list of signing AG’s:

  • Jeff Landry (R) — Louisiana
  • Bill Schuette (R) — Michigan
  • Douglas J. Peterson (R) — Nebraska
  • Adam Paul Laxalt (R) — Nevada
  • Wayne Stenehjem (R) — North Dakota
  • E. Scott Pruitt (R) — Oklahoma
  • Alan Wilson (R) — South Carolina
  • Marty J. Jackley (R) — South Dakota
  • Ken Paxton (R) — Texas
  • Sean Reyes (R) — Utah

The most notable name of the list is that of Nevada’s Adam Laxalt, who has signed this letter despite Nevada being one of the three US states where online poker and/or online casino games are officially regulated and available for play.

However, Laxalt has already been exposed as being an entirely-purchased attorney general, said purchasing done by none other than Sheldon Adelson, who bankrolled much of Laxalt’s election campaign.  If you wonder exactly why Adam Laxalt puts Adelson’s business interests ahead of those of the state he represents, simply click here for a look at the direct money link between the two, as Flushdraw explored last October.

According to Poker Players Alliance VP Rich Muny, who helped publicize the existence of this latest RAWA push, “This letter if very disappointing. Trump/Pence and the GOP ran on a platform of limited government, rights of states, and ‘draining the swamp.’  Yet one of the FIRST things we see is a push by ten Republican state attorneys general to reward megadonor Sheldon Adelson with a crony capitalism bill that usurps the states with a big government federal ban on state-licensed Internet poker.  And, VP-elect Mike Pence is actively pushing for this proposed ban.  So much for draining the swamp.

“Beyond the politics,” Muny added, “this is simply a bad idea. A ban would reduce individual freedom while limiting the ability of states to protect consumers. The arguments made in the letter are factually incorrect and attempt to conflate offshore online gaming with state-authorized online poker. US-based sites block for age and location. There are zero documented cases of underage or out-of-state play, yet the letter pushes a ‘Reefer Madness’ type narrative of underage ‘gambling additions [sic]’. I guess if ten attorneys general cannot spell-check a letter to the VP-elect, expecting a fact-check from them would be out of the question, sadly.”

Muny encouraged the poker community “to make sure lawmakers know we demand the right to play,” noting the PPA’s Poker Daily Action Plan, available on the PPA’s site.  Among the available tools are the PPA’s all-new prewritten, fully editable letters which can be sent to Congress and the president with just about a minute’s effort.

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