The Internet Poker Freedom Act (IPFA) and RAWA, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, are two dueling federal bills that wish to achieve polar opposite goals.
In one corner is IPFA, a bill authored by US House Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) that seeks to establish a framework for the national licensing of online poker by states and federally recognized Indian tribes.
On the other side of the ring is RAWA, Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-South Carolina) continued attempt to ban all forms of Internet betting across the country, effectively restoring the Wire Act to its pre-2011 interpretation before the Department of Justice ruled the act only pertained to sports betting, allowing state’s to legalize iGambling.
If at First You Don’t Succeed
This isn’t the first time RAWA and IPFA have been brought to their respective chambers; in fact both have been loitering in Washington, DC, for more than a year.
RAWA was first introduced to the Senate by Graham in March of 2014, and while it was quickly determined that the bill was being largely driven by Las Vegas Sands CEO and Chairman Sheldon Adelson, pressuring GOPers to support the legislation in order to receive his financial campaign contributions, the rest of the Senate failed to act.
After being passed over during the Omnibus spending bill in December of that year, the bill essentially died.
Adelson looked to the other side of Congress and persuaded Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) to bring RAWA to the House of Representatives, and it was introduced in February.
After a one-sided and controversial hearing was held in March, RAWA has once again lingered on the floor with little action.
That brings us to this week as Graham reintroduces RAWA to the Senate, but with some very special co-sponsors including one of his 2016 presidential opponents, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida).
“Expanded gambling presents many challenges, especially on the Internet where safeguards to protect people from fraud and addiction are harder to enforce,” Rubio stated. Graham echoed those claims saying, “Virtually any cell phone or computer in South Caroline could become a video poker machine. A major rewrite of a long-standing federal law like this should be made by the people’s elected representatives in Congress.”
Adelson donated $92,796,625 to conservative candidates through political action committees during the last presidential election cycle in 2012.
The Poker Players Alliance called into question Graham’s timing considering his home state is mourning the recent church shootings that left nine dead. “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,” John Pappas, PPA executive director said.
First introduced on July 11, 2013, Barton’s Internet Poker Freedom Act is making its second appearance in Congress, and for proponents of legalized online poker, his timing couldn’t be better.
The debate over iGaming has heated up recently to the point of boiling as influential states including New York, Pennsylvania, and California are currently considering legislation.
IPFA wouldn’t mandate states to permit online poker, but would provide the necessary framework for interstate play should lawmakers on the state level decide to legalize.
It would also require states to prevent minors from accessing poker networks, place problem gambling controls, regulate and police operators, and provide player protections.
“A clear regulatory environment is in the best interest of all consumers, operators, regulators, and law enforcement,” Pappas said. “The poker community thanks Congressman Barton for his longstanding support, and we look forward to working together to advance this bill.”
It’s shaping up to be quite a fight, and while a TKO might not be expected, the lawmakers that the people have elected must make a decision.