The great debate over RAWA, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, continues, with the online poker and casino gaming community and relative organizations opposing the bill, and a range of anti-gambling organizations, and one very adamant billionaire, pushing for its adoption. In what appears to be an effort to garner more support, Senator Lindsey Graham has said he’s perfectly willing to consider the idea of scripting a carve-out for online lottery sales.
At last week’s RAWA hearing on Capitol Hill – an event that drew a great deal of media attention from the online poker community – the general consensus was one of support for approving the prohibition of online gambling in the US. However, one member of the committee asked a scalding question that surely contributed to Senator Graham’s recent acquiescence to states’ online lottery.
House Representative Cedric Richmond hails from the state of Louisiana, one of four US states that already hosts an online lottery division. Rep. Richmond asked the panel what would happen to Louisiana’s online lottery if RAWA were to be passed into law?
After a brief moment of silence in which none seemed willing to reply, Parry Aftab, CEO of WiredSafety and strong opponent of the anti-online gambling bill, was the only person in the room to offer a reply. “If RAWA passes, your lottery goes offline,” she stated matter of factly. Rep. Richmond asked if anyone in the room disagreed with Aftab’s assessment, but none did.
Arthur Gleason, President and CEO of the Kentucky Lottery Corporation, delivered a letter to his state’s Congressional delegates recently imploring them to oppose the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).”
Gleason wrote, “As Congress contemplates addressing Internet wagering again, I hope you will preserve our state’s right to offer lottery ticket sales over the Internet and protect the existing sales channels used by the KLC. If enacted, RAWA poses a significant threat to both future and existing lottery sales in Kentucky.”
Michigan and Georgia also provide an online lottery service, and there’s a list of other states currently considering authorization of internet lotteries. Thus supporters of RAWA could find a much greater source of opposition from states as their momentum builds.
Sen. Graham spoke with Gambling Compliance, saying that he is open to the idea of online lottery sales, even though RAWA – a bill he himself proposed to the Senate last year – would eliminate them from the US. He said his intent in sponsoring RAWA was not to prohibit internet-based lotteries, and that he is currently “talking with” relative lawmakers to “see if we can find some accommodation”
Could RAWA prohibit Online Poker Only?
The implications of an online lottery carve-out in RAWA could be disastrous for online poker hopefuls. RAWA is already designed to permit internet-based horse race betting, daily fantasy sports and charitable gambling, and if online lottery sales were exempt, it could actually permit a form of online casino gambling by default.
The Michigan Online Lottery has redesigned a number of traditional casino games, like roulette, craps, keno and slots, so that they fall into the guidelines of a lottery-style game. Passage of RAWA with an online lottery carve-out would surely propagate such games, essentially making online casino games permissible for authorization by states. Therefore online poker could feasibly become the only iGaming activity banned in the US.