Lindsey Graham

US Senator Lindsey Graham Reintroduces Sheldon Adelson-funded RAWA Measure

US Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has reintroduced the Senate version of the RAWA (“Restoration of America’s Wire Act”) bill sponsored by land-based casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.  Graham had previously announced his intent to resubmit the bill, after a 2014 version of the same proposal to ban virtually all forms of online gambling within the US failed to come up for a vote during last December’s lame-duck session of Congress.

Lindsey Graham does his benefactor's bidding by agreeing to introduce a federal bill seeking to ban online gambling.

Lindsey Graham does his benefactor’s bidding by introducing a federal bill intended to ban US online gambling.

The shell language of the bill (below) is highly similar to both the RAWA measure that Graham introduced last year, as well as a House of Representatives already in committee that was introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).  Both Chaffetz and Graham have received significant contributions from Adelson to carry the banner for the proposal, which despite its misnomered and ungrammatical name would actually go well beyond the reach of the US’s original 1961 Wire Act, to which the modern RAWA proposal refers.

Graham has also curried favor from Adelson in connection with his recently announced, longshot US presidential candidacy.  Another GOP presidential hopeful, Sen. Marco Rubio, is reported to be a co-sponsor of the legislation.  As of publication, Graham’s Senate version of the RAWA bill had yet to be assigned its official Congressional nomenclature.

Adelson, the chairman, CEO and largest owner of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, seeks to block online gambling as a means of protecting the profitability of his land-based casino empire.  LV Sands owns and operates the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas and the Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania, though the majority of the company’s profits come from mega-casino resorts in Macau.

Here’s the raw text of the bill, which has emerged via several online outlets in recent hours:

S. _____

To restore long-standing United States policy that the Wire Act prohibits all forms of Internet gambling, and for other purposes.

A BILL

To restore long-standing United States policy that the Wire Act prohibits all forms of Internet gambling, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Restoration of America’s Wire Act’’.

SEC. 2. WIRE ACT CLARIFICATION.

Section 1084 of title 18, United States Code, is amended—

(1) in subsection (a)—

(A) by striking ‘‘bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest,’’ and inserting ‘‘any bet or wager, or information assisting in the placing of any bet or wager,’’;

(B) by striking ‘‘result of bets or wagers’’ and inserting ‘‘result of any bet or wager’’; and

(C) by striking ‘‘or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers,’’; and

(2) by striking subsection (e) and inserting the following:

‘‘(e) As used in this section— ‘‘(1) the term ‘bet or wager’ does not include any activities set forth in section 5362(1)(E) of title 31;

‘‘(2) the term ‘State’ means a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or a commonwealth, territory, or possession of the United States;

‘‘(3) the term ‘uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of any bet or wager’ includes any transmission over the Internet carried interstate or in foreign commerce, incidentally or otherwise; and

‘‘(4) the term ‘wire communication’ has the meaning given the term in section 3 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 153).’’.

SEC. 3. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed—

(1) to preempt any State law prohibiting gambling; or

(2) to alter, limit, or extend—

(A) the relationship between the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 (15 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.) and other Federal laws in effect on the date of enactment of this Act;

(B) the ability of a State licensed lottery (including in conjunction with its supplier) or State licensed retailer to make on-premises retail lottery sales, including through a self-service retail lottery terminal, or to transmit information ancillary to such sales (including information relating to subscriptions or fulfillment of game play), in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws;

(C) the ability of a State licensed gaming establishment or a tribal gaming establishment to transmit information assisting in the placing of a bet or wager on the physical premises of the establishment, in accordance with applicable Federal and State laws; or

(D) the relationship between Federal laws and State charitable gaming laws.

The bill, should it become law, would effectively bar most forms of currently legal and proposed forms of online gambling in the US.  In addition to a federal ban on online poker and online casino gambling, the RAWA measure would bar online ticket sales by regulated state lotteries, virtually assuring significant blowback at the state level against the bill.  The shell text also makes clear that it won’t supercede any states (such as Utah), that have chosen to ban online gambling on their own, but the bill’s intent is to specifically supercede in states where online gambling has established a toehold, such as Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.

Among the many voices immediately protesting Graham’s reintroduction of the RAWA measure was the Poker Players Alliance.  Curiously, a presser released by the PPA not only blasted the bill itself, but publically chastized Sen. Graham for introducing the bill while attention was on South Carolina in the wake of the racial-driven Charleston, SC church massacre.

According to John Pappas, the executive director of the PPA, “As the eyes of the nation are focused on South Carolina following the recent tragic event, I think I speak for most Americans when I express profound disappointment in Senator Graham for choosing this time to advance a bill for the sole benefit of a billionaire political donor.  The Congress made the decision to adjourn early so they could attend services on Friday in Senator Graham’s home state. Unfortunately, Senator Graham has not reset his priorities and picked a very unfortunate time to engage in the Internet gaming debate.”

Pappas went on to savage not only Grahama and the RAWA measure, but the “crony capitalism” of billionaire GOP donor Adelson.  Said Pappas, “From bad timing to bad policy, it is clear Senator Graham’s priorities are misplaced. Instead of banning consumer access to Internet poker, Congress should corral the unregulated marketplace and implement a system which protects consumers and empowers the government to hold fraudulent operators accountable.  Sheldon Adelson’s power over politicians, especially those running for president, is significant, but Congress must show it is stronger.  Online poker licensing and regulation is the only way to ensure consumers are protected and Americans who want to play poker online, have a safe way to do so.”

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