New York State Senators Urge Congress to Vote Against RAWA

Posted on May 15th, 2015 by Alana Markoff
New York state senator Jeffrey Klein RAWA

New York state senators, including Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), are leading the effort to persuade their congressional delegation to oppose any federal bill that places a ban on Internet betting. (Image: Buck Ennis/thebronxchronicle.com)

RAWA, aka the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, has lost a few more fans, and if some Empire State senators have any say in the matter, many more will soon be joining their ranks.

According to a report in the New York Daily News, five New York State senators are asking members of their congressional delegation to oppose any bill in the United States Congress that attempts to prohibit states from deciding whether it can legalize online gambling and poker.

The Empire State’s Senate Independent Democratic Conference wrote a letter this week urging New York’s 26 US House of Representatives members, as well as two senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, to resist legislation such as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a proposition that seeks to outlaw online wagering.

The Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) is a five-member breakaway group of state lawmakers that identify with the Democratic Party, but choose not to be formal members for a variety of reasons.

Led by State Senator Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx), the letter was also signed by the other four state senators, Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), Tony Avella (D-Queens), David Carlucci (D-Rockland County), and David Valesky (D-Syracuse).

Write Off RAWA

The petition, which was obtained by the New York Daily News, says the issue of online gambling should be a state issue, not a federal one. A bill such as RAWA “usurps New York’s ability to determine for itself what forms of gambling are authorized,” the letter states.

The IDC argues that Internet gambling, primarily that of online poker, could generate substantial new tax revenue should it become legal in the Empire State. Though the committee hasn’t taken a formal position one way or another, the group believes federal politicians shouldn’t hold the right to tell state governments whether they can offer iGaming.

Hidden Agenda?

2015 is shaping up to be a critical year for online gambling, and while New York has previously considered two iGaming bills, the process of legalizing Internet wagering in the fourth-most populous state is going to take much longer than a New York minute in this case.

Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-Mount Vernon) is the leading advocate for New York’s legal online gambling, and also chairs the Racing and Wagering Committee. After two proposals failed last year, Pretlow said in January, “Online poker will not happen within the year, but there will probably be hearings.”

When it comes to online gaming politics, slow and steady might not win the race. Pennsylvania is currently debating several bills, as is California, Mississippi, and Washington, and Delaware and Nevada recently entered an interstate poker compact.

Lawmakers in New York could be more concerned with Internet betting as it relates to its lottery over passing new laws to legalize online poker. The New York Lottery is the largest in the country, with sales eclipsing $9 billion in 2014.

The lottery also permits residents to pay a subscription to buy tickets online for Lotto, Mega Millions, and Cash4Life. This allows seniors and others who are homebound to continue wagering from the comfort of their own homes.

Previously introduced in the US Senate and now in the House, RAWA seeks to restore the original Wire Act, and to outlaw all forms of online gambling, including computer-generated retail lottery sales.

A federal ban on the transmission of Internet wagering would cut into those lottery revenues, which is why even though New York doesn’t seem eager to legalize online gaming, it still has plenty of reasons to fight RAWA.

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