Anti-Online Gambling Legislation Introduced in US Senate

Posted on September 26th, 2016 by Jon Pineda
anti-online gambling Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton

Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton is joining the likes of Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio in supporting anti-online gambling legislation. (Image: Danny Johnston/Associated Press)

Anti-online gambling legislation is back in Congress thanks to Senators Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Mike Lee (R-Arizona), and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina).

Introduced by Cotton and cosponsored by Lee and Graham, Senate Bill 3376 is a “bill to ensure the integrity of laws enacted to prevent the use of financial instruments for funding or operating online casinos are not undermined by legal opinions not carrying the force of law.”

The bill’s mission statement is of course a direct response to the 2011 Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion that declared the Wire Act, first passed in 1961, pertained only to a “sporting event or contest.” The ruling effectively gave individual states the option to legalize internet casinos, so long as sports betting remained banned.

Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware quickly acted and passed online gambling and internet poker laws. But over the last several years, opponents to expanded interactive gaming have stepped up their efforts to override the DOJ’s 2011 interpretation of the longstanding Wire Act.

Little Fanfare

When politicians introduce legislation they feel strongly about, they typically flaunt their statutes with a press release or public conference. But Cotton, who at 39-years-old is the youngest US senator, quietly introduced SB 3376 on September 21.

Cotton’s campaign in 2014 raised $13.9 million from donors, and one of them was Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas Sands billionaire has committed $100 million to helping Donald Trump replace President Barack Obama, and the GOP mega donor gave money to Cotton, too.

Adelson is notorious to the online poker community for pushing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the anti-online gambling bill that seeks to return the Wire Act to its pre-2011 interpretation. Though he’s made billions off gambling, the 83-year-old doesn’t believe internet casinos should be legal, as the Vegas tycoon calls it a “moral issue.”

RAWA’s mission is similar to Cotton’s “new” bill: to prevent all forms of internet wagering.

Adelson has donated heavily to Graham, one likely reason the South Carolina senator first introduced RAWA in 2014. After RAWA failed to gain momentum, Graham, while his state was mourning nine victims in the Charleston church shooting, quietly reintroduced RAWA in June of 2015.

Pennsylvania Looks Other Way

Cotton’s triumvirate might be moving to ban online poker on the federal level, but lawmakers in Pennsylvania are set to consider internet gambling in the coming weeks.

Though Pennsylvania’s House Gaming Oversight Committee canceled a public hearing for online gambling and fantasy sports scheduled for this week, the state’s General Assembly is expected to act quickly on implementing iGaming regulations. That’s because last July Pennsylvania legislators approved a 2016-17 fiscal budget that assumes millions of dollars in new tax revenue generated from expanded gaming.

Adelson, however, is threatening to pull a substantial investment in his Sands Bethlehem casino resort should internet gaming move forward in the Keystone State.

“We’re certainly not going to continue to make a commitment to reinvest if they follow through with this,” Sands Bethlehem CEO Mark Juliano said in July.

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