Online poker players and fans in the United States can celebrate a small victory this week, as the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee passed a resolution opposing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA).
The resolution, known as HR 140, passed the committee by an 18-8 vote, and urges both Congress as a whole and Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to reject RAWA.
The resolution passed just two days before a scheduled hearing on Internet gaming, one that will discuss House Bill 649, the online poker and gambling bill introduced by Representative John Payne (R-Dauphin County).
That bill would authorize the regulation of online poker, allowing players located in the state and over the age of 21 to play the games.
The bill would also allow for “any interactive game approved by the board,” opening the possibility for a wide range of online gambling games to appear in Pennsylvania if the bill should pass.
RAWA Would Limit Pennsylvania’s Gambling Expansion Opportunities
The resolution against RAWA was also introduced by Payne. As he explained when he introduced HR 140 back in February, RAWA would prevent Pennsylvania from legalizing online poker or most other forms of Internet gaming.
“If enacted, HR 707 would prohibit the transmission by wire communication of any bet or wager or of information assisting in the placement of any bet or wager, including internet gaming,” Payne wrote in a memorandum. “A Federal prohibition against internet gaming would directly and negatively impact Pennsylvania by foreclosing the future potential of internet gaming to generate tax revenue, to create economic and employment opportunities, including high-tech software jobs, and to foster valuable business ventures for Pennsylvania casinos.”
The passage of the resolution came as little surprise, as there are many members on the Gaming Oversight Committee that are known to be strong supporters of online gambling.
Both Payne, who is the committee chairman, and Nick Kotik (D-Allegheny), the Democratic chairman for the committee, are in favor of Internet poker in Pennsylvania. Another committee member, Tiny Davis (D-Bucks County) has already introduced her own online gambling bill this year after having previously done so in 2013.
Resolution Could Bolster States’ Rights Argument
For Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas, the resolution may help show that states don’t believe RAWA is in their best interests.
“The passage of this resolution sends a strong and clear message to the US Congress that Pennsylvania has the right to make their own legislative decisions about licensing and regulating online poker without the partisan influence of Washington politics,” Pappas said.
“Sheldon Adelson’s anti-states’ rights bill would do nothing to protect Pennsylvanians online, and in fact would do the opposite by forcing Internet poker players into a black market with none of the consumer safeguards that players deserve.”
Thursday’s hearing will be the first of two scheduled hearings on Internet gaming in front of the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee, with a second hearing scheduled for May 6.
The Thursday hearing is expected to be attended by Andy Abboud of the Las Vegas Sands, who will be voicing an anti-online poker opinion for legislators.
However, Pappas has also said that he believes the hearings (particularly the one in May) will provide a forum for online poker proponents to make their case.