The bill was first introduced in early 2014, but went nowhere before the end of the year’s session. It was then re-introduced in June of this year by Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator Marco Rubio. While the public perception of RAWA is commonly associated with online poker, the text of the proposed legislation affects all forms of online gaming, stating that the goal of the bill is to:
“Provide that the prohibition of against using a wire communication facility for the transmission of bets or wagers, wagering information, or wagering proceeds shall (1) apply to any bet or wager (currently, to bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest); and (2) include any transmission over the the Internet carried interstate or in foreign commerce.”
The first Wire Act, introduced in 1961, placed a ban on remote sports betting in an attempt to break the control that organised crime groups had on the industry. In 2011, an appeals court ruled that the original legislation is only applicable to sports betting and related contests, leaving states free to make their own decisions about whether or not to authorised online casino games.
However, RAWA seeks to expand the definition and legal scope of the original act, effectively banning online gambling of any variety, even in the three states - Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey - where online gaming is regulated and legal.
In order for RAWA to be passed, it must be approved in the House, then the Senate, and then be sent to the President to be signed into law. While it is highly unlikely that the bill will be passed during an election year, when decisions perceived as unpopular can make or break a presidential campaign, the recent news that Adelson may be about to make a large donation to a non-profit that supports Republican hopeful Marco Rubio is concerning.
The senator has stated that he would consider a carve-out for online poker as a game of skill, but as a co-sponsor of the Senate version of RAWA, there is no small amount of worry that his stance might change should his campaign pick up speed over the next year.