The Rawa Bill And It’s Intent To Restore The Federal Wire Act

US Law IconNot to be confused by its name, RAWA has become a bill that frightens states and overly empowers the US Federal Government. This bill has become synonymous with creating total bans on internet gambling and many anti-online gambling legislators intend to add RAWA to the list of US gambling laws and regulations. Simply put, RAWA does not restore the Federal Wire Act of 1961 as enacted by John F. Kennedy but rather rewrites it to fit the needs and desires of special interest groups. This bill has little momentum but an enormous amount of money and bought backers pushing it.

What is RAWA?

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act is a proposed internet gambling ban crafted by anti-online gambling lawmakers. It’s name intended to provide a double meaning as it seems it would restore the original Wire Act which was created to stop organized criminal operations, however, RAWA only intends to stop Americans from using the internet to gamble. This bill was introduced to Congress in Spring of 2014 by Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz. This bill would reverse the Department of Justice’s 2011 Opinion Memo which created the current stance and interpretation that the Federal Wire Act exclusively applies to domestically-based unregulated and unlicensed sports betting operations online.

The History of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act

Two anti-online gambling senators wrote a bi-partisan letter to the DOJ begging for a reversal of their 2011 opinion memorandum. These two individuals were Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein from California and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, who were unhappy they could no longer use an old interpretation of the Federal Wire Act to fit their agenda. Unsatisfied that the Wire Act could no longer be used for their prohibitory intentions, even though it was written before the use of the internet and personal computer for mass commercialism, their colleagues would begin to craft a bill which would explicitly forbid online gambling and extend the jurisdiction of said bill outside of the United States so no player from the U.S.A. could participate in offshore gambling. This bill would last through the years due to the lobbying of special internet groups, which are examined further in this page.

Why Does RAWA Exist?

RAWA exists to continue the prohibition of online gambling for USA residents. The same individuals supporting RAWA were the ones who twisted the interpretation of the Federal Wire Act during the 1990’s dot-com era to prosecute hundreds of online businesses due to its ambiguous language. It was further strengthened by the application of the Wire Act to the internet by the DOJ in 2001 which was recanted in 2011 by the same department. This recantation led to the creation of a bill that outright banned online gambling, the creation of RAWA. The authors and supporters of RAWA claim they are appealing to those concerned about child safety, addiction, terrorism, and money laundering, all of which are supposedly exacerbated by the wretches of online gambling.

An issue of States vs Federal rights

Concerning RAWA, the rights of different government departments and entities are further strained by the push and pull of bought lawmakers. RAWA would allow the Federal Government the right to revoke individual state rights and implement a federal ban which wholly violates the 10th amendment to the United States Constitution. This would mean that states with legally regulated and licensed online gambling platforms and networks would have to immediately shut down, forcing the local economy sustained by its creation to spiral downward.

There were far fewer issues in the 1960’s considering that the Federal Wire Act was used to curb the growing illegal sports betting operations run by the mafia. In fact, the U.S.’s federal regulation and prohibition of using wired communications to transmit betting information effectively concluded the problem.

Will the Restoration of America’s Wire Act Make Online Sports Betting Illegal?

The intended actions of RAWA are to emphasize the online gambling prohibition emboldened by the 2001 DOJ interpretation. If RAWA were to become law, online sports betting would be illegalized, whether the sports betting site was domestically or internationally hosted and licensed. However, there is a growing desire between states to repeal a US gambling law known as PASPA which would allow for domestic brick and mortar sportsbooks which could lead to the possible repeal of the Federal Wire Act which would declare US-based online gambling legal.

Until the Supreme Court of the United States steps in to clarify or ratify these laws, U.S. players can access licensed offshore online sportsbooks and internationally hosted online casinos for USA players. Understanding what is legal and illegal when visiting a country or participating in gambling is crucial.  Stay in the know by using our global gambling laws directory covering most countries around the world.

What Is the Impact of RAWA?

If RAWA were to pass and become law, it would federally illegalize online gambling operations existing in the USA and cease any and all access to offshore online gambling, regardless of licensing and regulatory status. US states offering any form of regulated legal gambling online would be given injunctions to cease operations. Which in turn, would damage local economies thriving off the online gambling business present in their state.

Ceasing completely legal and regulated online gambling operations would put state workers out of their jobs, create a great economic loss, and deeply set states like New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada back by forcefully halting a lucrative and taxable revenue stream. RAWA contains no carve-outs for these states with operational online gambling platforms and would smother any hope for Pennsylvania to obtain revenue from online gambling through its newly passed law to permit iGaming (its geo-targeted online gambling network) to their residents and state visitors.

What Objections are There to RAWA?

RAWA would overly empower the Federal Government and strip the individual rights of states away by allowing the Federal Government complete control over the destiny of online gambling for its inhabitants. Not only this, a complete nationwide ban on online gambling may only mimic a 2nd prohibition era and thus create illegal underground markets for online gambling. This would only increase illegal activities related to the access and participation of internet-based gambling.

Opposition to RAWA

It has slowly unfolded that RAWA has become less about gambling and more about placing restrictions on state’s rights and civil liberties. Billionaire Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson of Sands Las Vegas and many internationally noted casinos is the main backer and lobbyist for RAWA, simply because he would rather gain more profits from people coming into his brick and mortar casinos rather than letting them stay at home and access all of the games they would like from their personal computer off online servers; Clearly, RAWA has an agenda behind it. For this reason, a grassroots campaign called Downsize DC has formed which encourages locals to get in touch with their state representatives and remind them they do not work for their own self-interests (i.e. monetary benefits) or the interests of a company.

Restoration Of America’s Wire Act FAQ’s

How Was the Federal Wire Act Originally Interpreted?

Upon its creation and implementation, the 1961 Wire Act’s purpose and intention were made clear, and lawmakers understood that. The Act at the time was to solely prohibit the use of telegraphs and telephones to the transmit sports betting information within the U.S.A, across state lines, and to US-owned territories. This was exclusively intended to target domestic operations ran and fueled by the mob and other criminal organizations. The Federal Wire Act assisted states in strengthening the enforcement of their own laws respective to gambling and bookmaking.

If RAWA is Passed What Will Happen?

If RAWA passed it would rewrite the Federal Wire Act to include a prohibition for online gambling. RAWA would effectively illegalize any form of domestic or international online gambling sites and forbid its access from American players. This would mean several state-implemented iGaming systems would be seized and shut down in the United States and outlawed on a Federal level. Few online gambling avenues would remain exempt under RAWA such as state-run internet lottery ticket sales, fantasy sports leagues and tournaments, and intra-state satellite horse race betting.

What Precudes RAWA from Becoming an Official US Gambling Law?

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act has a few obstacles to overcome and rid of before it can be agreed upon and passed through the appropriate branches. Firstly, RAWA needs to be presented to the Congressional floor during an election year. Secondly, all conflicts of interests associated with Casino owner Sheldon Adelson’s backing of RAWA need to be resolved. Thirdly, RAWA much align conservatives behind the idea of the federal government revoking state rights. Four and final hurdle, RAWA has to create exclusions, exemptions, or appease states with currently operational online gambling networks and interfaces.

What Is The Current Status Of The Rawa Bill?

Thankfully, RAWA has rarely advanced past a few hearings which means it faces a lot of friction and opposition. Mainly due to the obvious implication of Adelson’s involvement in supporting RAWA and his support for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, whose online website frames online gambling in a negative light as addictive for players and competitive for domestic brick and mortar casinos. Clearly, Adelson desires a space free from market competition. This is further shown by Adelson’s generous monetary support for congressional and legislative member campaigns and the Senate Leadership Funds. Sponsors can surely be tied back to Adelson and his contributions. Therefore, the bill will not cease existing so long as Adelson can line someone’s pockets enough for them to discuss bringing RAWA back. Hopefully, Congress or the Supreme Court will create a federal framework for legal online gambling which will put an end to RAWA once and for all.