RAWA support among the 50 United States attorneys general comes in at just 16 percent, a modest eight chief state advisors adding their signatures to a letter circulating around the country requesting their approval to block online gambling at the federal level.
Attorneys General Chris Koster (D-Missouri) and Alan Wilson (R-South Carolina) penned a “Sign-On Opportunity” document in October that sought endorsements for HR 707, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, and to clarify the Wire Act and “prohibit all forms of Internet Gambling.”
Their efforts returned backings from the following attorneys general:
Janet Mills (Maine)
Bill Schuette (Michigan)
Doug Peterson (Nebraska)
Adam Laxalt (Nevada)
Scott Pruitt (Oklahoma)
Marty Jackley (South Dakota)
Aside from Mills, the other five new signatories are all Republicans.
Internet Gambling Remains Divided
That’s not to say that the remaining 42 attorneys general support the expansion of online gambling or Internet poker.
According to the National Association of Attorneys General, the position’s job description is to “serve as counselors to their legislatures and state agencies and also as the ‘People’s Lawyer’ for all citizens.”
Favoring a piece of legislation that would strip a state’s right to allow its residents to participate in online games of chance should its legislature and voting constituency wish to do so seems to go against the very definition of who a state attorney general is supposedly serving.
Gambling, and online gambling especially, is a combative topic among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. For politicians looking to raise revenues without raising taxes, the industry has come into good favor.
However, using the federal government to impede states’ rights is never a sound idea in the hearts and minds of traditional conservatives, which is why the majority of RAWA signatures being Republicans might come as a surprise.
“Conservatives don’t have to agree on the value of gambling, but we should agree that it is unwise to use the brute force of the federal government to try to stop states from making their own decisions on this activity,” American Conservative Union Executive Director Dan Schneider said earlier this year.
Lax On, Laxalt Off
The most surprising backer of the RAWA letter was Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, an attorney general overseeing one of three states with legalized online gaming.
Laxalt cited the 2011 Department of Justice’s legal opinion and its declaration that the Wire Act didn’t necessarily apply to Internet betting as cause for his stance.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval (R) wasted no time in responding, saying, “I am very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law.”
This week, Laxalt slightly backtracked on his position to signify he supports banning unlicensed online gambling facilitators.
“While I agree with the spirit of RAWA, recognizing the quasi-legislative impact of the 2011 Opinion and the resulting need for Congress to review and opine on the reach and application of the Wire Act, I also believe that it is incumbent upon the policymakers of Congress to protect current and future technological innovation of licensed and regulated gaming-related devices.”