On June 24, 2015, a bipartisan bill, “The Restoration of America’s Wire Act” (RAWA), was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The Graham-Feinstein bill matches the bill previously introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).
This bill is an important step forward in efforts to stop the predatory practice of online gambling. Over the past few months, Americans from all walks of life have shared stories with us about how their families have fallen victim to predatory online gaming. From a man who lost hundreds of thousands of dollars on the Internet while lying to his family, to another who was left homeless after gambling away everything, to a woman who is terrified to admit the level of her addiction to her family – the stories are truly heartbreaking. This bill will prevent the next family from sharing their pain.
With such strong support from both Republicans and Democrats alike, now is truly the time for Congress to “Restore America’s Wire Act.”
Please take a moment to let Congress know that you support this bill and stand up against the predatory online gambling companies. Together, we can stop predators from turning our homes into unregulated casinos!
Frequently Asked Questions About RAWA
What is RAWA?
RAWA, or “The Restoration of America’s Wire Act”, is bi-partisan legislation introduced in both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. It makes clear that the Federal Wire Act (18 U.S.C. § 1084) – a criminal law enacted in 1961 to prevent the use of telecommunications for gambling – continues to be interpreted as covering all forms of gambling.
Why is RAWA necessary?
To restore 50 years of legal precedence, and to permit the Justice Department and the FBI to enforce the law against illegal online casinos. Here is the background:
For 50 years following enactment of the federal Wire Act, the Act was interpreted by the Department of Justice as covering all forms of gambling – whether the gambling involved sporting events, horse races, casino games or lotteries.
When the Internet arrived, the Justice Department deemed it a form of interstate wire communication, and concluded that “federal law prohibits gambling over the Internet, including casino-style gambling.” To help enforce the ban on all Internet gambling, in 2006, Congress enacted the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Despite this lengthy record, two days before Christmas in 2011, an obscure lawyer in the Department of Justice, without seeking public comment or analyzing any policy implications, quietly issued a legal opinion reversing 50 years of Justice Department interpretation by concluding the Wire Act covers only betting on sporting events and contests.
Even though there was no change in Federal law nor issuance of any new regulation, some states have taken this opinion as license to authorize Internet gambling.
RAWA is necessary to restore the Wire Act to its long-standing interpretation, and assure that any decision to unleash Internet gambling on our country – with the potential of turning every mobile phone into an online casino – is made by Congress in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, and not by an unelected, obscure federal bureaucrat.
Who Supports RAWA?
Bi-Partisan legislation to Restore the Wire Act has been proposed by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), and by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Governors Haley (SC); Pence (IN); Scott (FL); Jindal (LA) and Perry (TX) have called on Congress to restore the Wire Act, as have the Attorneys General of Arizona, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Vermont.
The legislation has been endorsed by a coalition of diverse public interest groups including the African American Mayors Association; Concerned Women for America; Family Research Council; National Association of Convenience Stores; New York State Association of Chiefs of Police; The Latino Coalition; Urban League of Greater Kansas City; and the World Conference of Mayors.
Why is Internet gambling different than other forms of gambling?
There is a big difference between having to go to a casino to place a bet, and having the casino come to you. When someone goes to a casino, it takes initiative and the person can be observed to make sure he or she is not underage or not getting in over his head. Families have a right to keep casinos out of their homes and off of their kids’ laptops, phones and tablets.
What threat does Internet gambling pose to kids?
If we have learned anything about the Internet, it is that when it comes to technology, kids will find ways to outsmart their parents. A comparison between social gaming sites and Internet gambling sites reveals similarities that may be attractive to youth. Gaming experts say that Internet gambling is, in part, intended to draw the younger generation into gambling.
Where is public opinion on the issue of Internet gambling?
By wide majorities, the American public opposes Internet gambling. Opposition is bi-partisan, cuts across all demographic groups, and all regions of the country, and its an issue about which Americans feel strongly. People who support casinos, horseracing and lotteries oppose it. Even libertarians oppose Internet gambling. Americans know instinctively there is a big difference from having to go to a casino to bet and having the casino come to you – and the threat this poses to kids.
What about States that, relying on the Justice Department opinion, have authorized Internet gambling?
The few states which proceeded to authorize online casinos and lottery games assumed great risk. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has stated she is “not aware of any statute or regulation that gives [the DOJ opinion] the force of law.” Even the author of the opinion has stated “[i]t is just that – an opinion”.
Since the DOJ opinion does not carry the force of law, it is not binding on, and can be ignored by, federal courts. It does not shield online operators from civil liability. It can be overturned by Congress through a legislative clarification, The Justice Department can reverse its position without notice and begin prosecuting online gambling and lottery activity at any time, thereby forcing states to shut down any licensed Internet gambling activities.
The uncertainty surrounding the status of federal law helps explain why so few states have authorized Internet gambling and why financial institutions have been reluctant to process Internet gambling transactions.
What impact do online casinos have on criminal activity?
The Justice Department and the FBI have both stated that, as a result of the justice department opinion, they have ceased cracking down on illegal offshore online casinos. The FBI has written Congress that 1. Online poker games can be manipulated; 2. Online poker can be used for money laundering; 3. Technology to prevent kids and problem gamblers from participating can be defeated; 4. It may not have sufficient resources to combat Internet gambling crimes.
Does a State have a 10th Amendment right to authorize any gambling it sees fit – including Internet gambling?
This is a 10th Amendment issue – the DOJ opinion imposes a burden on States that have outlawed or who do not want Internet gambling, who will now be faced with the difficult, if not impossible, task of policing online casinos from other states and trying to prevent them from soliciting, and accepting bets from its citizens.
Federal courts have consistently held that the 10th Amendment does not grant states unlimited rights to offer and regulate gambling – otherwise there would be nothing to stop every state in the nation from offering bets on amateur and professional sporting events (see; National Collegiate Athletic Ass’n v. Christie, 926 F.Supp.2d 551 (2013)).
With respect to Internet gambling in particular, the Internet is inherently interstate, and is properly subject to federal jurisdiction. That is the opinion of the courts, and the position of the Justice Department, whose lawyers have made this argument in prosecuting child pornography and other Internet crimes.
What impact will Internet gambling have on jobs and the economy?
Internet gambling is about replacing American casino workers with computer servers and exporting IT jobs overseas.
Internet gambling will reduce traffic at land-based casinos — threatening the $240 Billion impact casinos have on our economy, the $38 Billion they contribute in tax revenues, and construction and maintenance investment nationally by casino companies, leading to fewer construction jobs.
Greater Internet gambling play and fewer people visiting land-based casinos will put at risk the jobs of 1.7 Million Americans working in casinos, lodging, restaurant, entertainment and retail at casino properties and harm nearby small businesses and attractions who rely on the $14 Billion they receive annually from casino visitors.
The major Internet gambling service providers are all foreign companies and therefore any new IT employees they hire will not be American jobs.