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”.

Pretow scorns RAWA in support of online poker in NYAssemblyman 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.”

The RAWA Hearing originally scheduled for March 5, 2015 held ominous undertones as the original witness panel was stacked in favor of Sheldon Adelson and his crusade to banish regulated online gambling in the US. Now set for Thursday, March 25, a fifth witness is scheduled to appear, helping to better balance the perspective views on the legislation.

RAWA—or by its official term, The Restoration of America’s Wire Act—is a federal bill that was scripted to reverse the DOJs 2011 opinion of the 1961 Wire Act, making it possible for states to regulate online poker and casino gambling. Funded by Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, RAWA seeks to prohibit iGaming throughout the United States.

The RAWA Hearing (also said to be funded by Adelson) will take place in front of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, which just so happens to seat Representative Jason Chaffetz, who re-introduced RAWA earlier this year. The original panel of speakers for the hearing was set to include just four witnesses, three of which would heavily favor passage of the online gambling ban.

According to the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the winter storm that delayed the original RAWA Hearing was a blessing in disguise, because it gave the online poker community time to make their voices heard. As such, a fifth witness, Andrew Moylan, was added to the panel.

Official RAWA Hearing Witness List Updated

Mr. John Warren Kindt
Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at University of Illinois School of Law
Mr. Les Bernal
National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling Foundation
Mr. Michael K. Fagan
Adjunct Professor of Law at Washington University School of Law
Mr. Andrew Moylan
Executive Director and Senior Fellow of R Street Institute
Ms. Parry Aftab
Executive Director of Wired Safety

John Kindt poses the biggest threat to the RAWA Hearing for his distinct pattern of radical statements opposing gambling. He has frequently misinterpreted the results of research by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC), and despite being called on it by the American Gaming Association numerous times, he continues to do so. No doubt, his testimony will make every effort to undermine the proficiency of iGaming regulatory systems.

Les Bernal and Michael Fagan won’t speak in favor of online poker, but they have historically based their congressional testimonies on facts (unlike Mr. Kindt). While they do not oppose RAWA, their findings should be based on the regulatory capabilities of online poker and casino systems already present in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.

Parry Aftab was the Democratic choice to speak at the RAWA Hearing, and will lend a positive voice for the online poker community. She has long advocated internet gambling as a means to protect consumers, and is expected to present a strong, highly educated argument opposing RAWA on Thursday.

Andrew Moylan is the newest addition to the witness panel, and could be the game-saving pinch hitter for online poker advocates.  The R Street Institute is a group of research experts with a libertarian attitude. Mr. Moylan is expected to rebuke RAWA as a violation of state’s rights; the number one argument against the federal legislation, even by those who do not support or oppose online gambling.

John Pappas, Director of the PPA, was tremendously pleased to see Moylan’s name added to the witness list for this week’s RAWA Hearing. “I don’t know Andrew, but I’m familiar with R Street and they have a good reputation for focusing on federalism and 10th amendment issues on a whole lot of subject matters,” said Pappas. I think they will be very credible and a good voice at the hearing.”

While online poker players across the United States are bracing for the results of a House Committee Hearing to discuss a federal anti-online gambling measure known as RAWA, government officials in Washington DC are bracing for a potentially dreadful winter storm. The hearing on HR 707, introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), was scheduled for the morning of Thursday, March 5. But due to a forecast that calls for 4-8 inches of snow dropping onto the nation’s capital, the RAWA hearing has been officially postponed.

House hearing to debate HR 707, RAWA, postponedThe House Committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations was supposed to gather at 9:30am tomorrow to debate the feasibility of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (aka RAWA). The bill, introduced by Rep. Chaffetz one month ago today and heavily petitioned by the billionaire backing of Las Vegas Sands Corp CEO Sheldon Adelson, seeks to enforce a blanket ban of any and all forms of internet gambling in the United States.

Tuesday morning, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) was urging all of their members, and anyone else interested in preserving states’ right to regulate online poker, to take action. A link was supplied for anyone interested to instantly Tweet a pre-filled message to all members of the relative House Judiciary Committee.

“The opponents of your freedom to play online, led by casino magnate billionaire Sheldon Adelson, have stacked the deck for this hearing,” read a statement on the PPA website Tuesday. “They have loaded the witness panel with anti-poker zealots who have no real-world knowledge of how Internet poker works.”

But later that same night, it was confirmed by the PPA that the HR 707 hearing had officially been postponed due to the looming winter weather forecasted.

The postponement was later confirmed directly on the website of the House Committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.

Since then, the PPA has changed the contents of its Fight HR 707 – Take Action wepbage, pending further refinement. “Due to the postponement we will be refining this Take Action page. Stay tuned and we will be directing you back here very soon with all new actions.”

A new date for the HR 707 hearing has not yet been set. A notice on the committee website simply states that “it will be rescheduled at a later date.”

Let your State Rep know you Oppose HR 707

In the meantime, anyone who would like to let their representatives know how they feel about RAWA and has a few minutes to spare can Tweet or telephone all members of the House Committee, which presently includes 4 sponsors of RAWA. The complete list of committee members, along with their Twitter addresses and office telephone numbers, are supplied below.

State House Representative District Partisanship Twitter Acct Telephone #
California Karen Bass 37th Democrat @RepKarenBass 202-225-7084
California Rep. Judy Chu 27th Democrat @RepJudyChu 202-225-5464
Colorado Ken Buck 4th Republican @RepKenBuck 202-225-4676
Idaho Raúl Labrador 1st Republican @Raul_Labrador 202-225-6611
Illinois Luis Gutierrez 4th Democrat @Repgutierrez 202-225-8203
Louisiana Cedric Richmond 2nd Democrat @RepRichmond 202-225-6636
Michigan Mike Bishop 8th Republican @RepMikeBishop 202-225-4872
Puerto Rico Pedro Pierluisi AL Democrat @pedropierluisi 202-225-2615
Ohio Steve Chabot 1st Republican @RepSteveChabot 202-225-2216
South Carolina Trey Gowdy 4th Republican @TGowdySC 202-225-6030
Texas Louie Gohmert 1st Republican @replouiegohmert 202-225-3035
Texas Sheila Jackson Lee 18th Democrat @JacksonLeeTX18 202-225-3816
Texas Ted Poe 2nd Republican @JudgeTedPoe 202-225-6565
Utah Jason Chaffetz 3rd Republican @jsoninthehouse 202-225-7751
Virginia Randy Forbes 4th Republican @Randy_Forbes 202-225-6365
Virginia Bob Goodlatte 6th Republican @repgoodlatte 202-225-5431
Wisconsin James Sensenbrenner 5th Republican @JimPressOffice 202-225-5101

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has been backing a bill that would incite a blanket ban of online gambling in the US, titled Restoration of Americas Wire Act (RAWA). With billions behind it and not much distinguishable opposition ahead, many feared the lame duck legislative session would be an easy catalyst for Adelson to get his bill through Congress. As the hour draws nigh, however, it seems there’s a lot more resistance in the undercurrent than the anti-online gambling bill’s supporters first realized.

On Thursday, a letter was authored to the four most influential members of Congress; The U.S. Senates’  Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Perhaps more impressive than the heading, in quantity and quality, were the signatures upon the communique, which included Presidents, Executive Directors and Honorary Chairman’s for 12 powerful conservative organizations.

We write to inform you of our strong concerns about S.2159, Restoration of America’s Wire Act, and its companion House legislation H.R. 4301, both known as RAWA,” the letter begins.

While RAWA supporters contend that this legislation is a simple fix to 53 year old Wire Act legislation on sports betting, RAWA attempts to apply federal sports betting regulations to online gambling – even though this legislation was created decades before the invention of the internet.

The conservatives went on to clarify that “states have always led the way in regulating gambling and that is why a diverse coalition of organizations including the Democratic Governors Association, National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures and numerous civil libertarian, free market and conservative groups have already spoken out against this legislation.

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 letter called RAWA “an assault on our Federalist system,” arguing that New Jersey and Pennsylvania legislators are “considering resolutions to Congress to ask you to vote against such legislation.

After citing original debates leading to the US Department of Justice’s evaluation of the Wire Act in 2011 that resulted in intrastate online gambling becoming a viable regulatory avenue for individual states, authors closed the document with the following appeal.

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.

Signatures on the oppositional letter included:

Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform
Larry Hart
Director of Government Relations
American Conservative Union
Steve Pociask
American Consumer Institute
John Tate
Campaign for Liberty
Lawson Bader
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Andrew Langer
Institute for Liberty
Gov. Gary Johnson
Honorary Chairman
Our America Initiative
David Williams
Taxpayers Protection Alliance
Katie McAuliffe
Executive Director
Digital Liberty
Jeff Mazzella
Center for Individual Freedom
Tom Giovanetti
Institute for Policy Innovation
Andrew F. Quinlan
Center for Freedom and Prosperity


It’s becoming clear now that RAWA, and its billionaire backer, Sheldon Adelson, face a lot more hostility than once believed in terms of filtering RAWA through a fiscally-empathetic lame duck session. Now, with the public eye narrowly trained on the issue, it’s doubtful the anti-online gambling bill will see the light of day before the 2015 legislative session reconvenes, and harvesting support won’t be so easy then either.

Each week, former Congressman Ron Paul authors a weekly column on his personal website, Ron Paul Institute, where he shares his views on current political matters. This week, he tapped into the hearts of America’s online poker community by writing a piece entitled, ‘Internet Gambling Ban: A Winner for Sheldon Adelson, a Losing Bet for the Rest of the US’. The article blasts Adelson’s campaign to push a new bill, Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), while supporting state’s rights to regulate online poker, lottery and casino gambling as they see fit.

RAWA was introduced earlier this year on dual platforms; to the House of Representatives by Rep Jason Chafetz of Utah, and to the US Senate by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp, has backed the bill every step of the way, vowing to spend “whatever it takes” to get online gambling banned across the United States, even if it means swiping the rug out from under states like Delaware, Georgia, Nevada and New Jersey, where some form of legal internet wagering is already taking place.

The opening statements of Ron Paul’s column defined the term “crony capitalism”, aka “cronyism”, a as common practice in which “politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries”, (i.e. Adelson and his virtually unlimited billions worth of campaign donations). Paul pointed the finger at Congress, which was expected to vote on RAWA in the lame duck session, calling potential passage of the legislation “a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson.”

Paul accused supporters of the online poker ban of masking their motives, saying they “publicly deny…a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor. Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity.” Paul cited such excuses as iGaming benefiting criminals and “even terrorists!”

In direct opposition to that common political scare tactic, Paul argued that “criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.”

Furthermore, Paul appreciated the fact that “many supporters of an Internet gambling ban sincerely believe that gambling is an immoral and destructive activity that should be outlawed.” But he then went on to explain that, “the proposed legislation is not at all about the morality of gambling. It is about whether Americans who do gamble should have the choice to do so online, or be forced to visit brick-and-mortar casinos.”

Ron Paul said that RAWA “has no place in a free society”, comparing a blanket ban of regulated online poker to forcibly preventing people from reading biased, pro-war publications. “The proposed ban on Internet gambling is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our liberties that will likely expand the surveillance state,” wrote Paul. “Worst of all, it is all being done for the benefit of one powerful billionaire. Anyone who thinks banning online gambling will not diminish our freedoms while enriching criminals is making a losing bet.”

Interestingly enough, on Monday evening, just one day after Ron Paul’s column appeared, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) said an inside source had confirmed that the hearing to discuss RAWA had been stricken from the docket. If true, the federal bill to ban online poker will not be voted upon in the lame duck session.