Several US states have been working towards to regulation of online poker in recent years. In New York, Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow has spearheaded the movement to legalize and tax internet gaming in his home state. In a recent op-ed for the government journal Roll Call, Pretlow ridiculed the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), explaining that “prohibition doesn’t work”.
Assemblyman Pretlow is the Chairman of the New York State Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, making him one of the most influential people in the state in terms of gambling related legislation. In May 2015, Pretlow introduced S 5302, a bill designed to redefine certain gambling amusements – particularly poker – as games of skill, and allow such skill-based games to be legalized and regulated by the state for real money play over the internet.
However, despite having personally introduced the online poker bill, Pretlow made it abundantly clear that he had no intention of pushing the measure at that time. Instead, his purpose was to raise awareness in New York and create a smoother path for future regulation.
Now, Pretlow’s number one goal in regards to interactive gaming seems to be the eradication of RAWA. The federal bill was introduced on dual levels by House Rep. Jason Chaffetz [R-Utah] and Senator Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.] in 2014, and again in 2015. If passed, RAWA would provoke a blanket ban of online gambling throughout the country, possibly exterminating the existing online poker markets in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey along the way.
Pretlow Blasts RAWA in Op-Ed
Pretlow’s blog post on Roll Call, entitled “When Congress Shouldn’t Act: Let States Advance Economic Growth and Protect Consumers”, deemed the intent of Congress to pass RAWA “particularly troubling”, especially considering the political cabinet’s tendency to drag its feet on other, arguably more important matters designed to benefit the economy.
“The proposal currently being considered in the House — the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — would prevent states from deciding for themselves how to regulate gaming and online lotteries, prevent us from capturing the potential for economic growth these systems offer and tie the hands of our law enforcement when it comes to protecting consumers online,” wrote Pretlow.
He said he’s observed closely the successful markets that have developed in three other states where they’ve “adopted well-regulated systems”. Pretlow noted that these states were able to capitalize on the taxation of online gaming, and that “the security technology they have employed has not only kept gaming safe within their borders, it has created a legal system where law enforcement can crack down on the fraud and any other illegal activity that currently runs rampant in the robust online black market.”
Pretlow scorned the fact that RAWA would ban online lottery sales, which were responsible for helping the NY Lottery to raise $3.11 billion in 2014-15. That equates to 14% of the state’s educational funds. “RAWA would ban online lotteries, risking education dollars in New York and over a dozen other states around the country,” reads the op-ed.
As for regulating online poker in New York, Pretlow said, “In addition to the economic benefits, we should be identifying the best possible way to protect online consumers. Simply banning online gaming will protect no one other than the criminals currently running a thriving online black market.”
Pretlow explained that an estimated “one million consumers spend upwards of $3 billion annually in this illegal overseas market,” and without regulations, “local and federal law enforcement officers are powerless to protect them from fraud and abuse.
“Prohibition doesn’t work,” continued Pretlow. He believes that the only way to promote safety in online gaming is to devise “A well-regulated and highly advanced system based on secure technology and fully integrated with our law enforcement’s needs.” He pointed out the success of geo-location technology in New Jersey for thwarting underage and out-of-state gambling over the internet, stating that RAWA’s passage would undermine the ability to “help keep vulnerable consumers safe.”