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Former Republican Congressman: Potential Online Poker Ban 'Has Sweeping Consequences'

Bipartisan Opposition To Adelson-Backed Plan

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There’s still some support in Congress to back legislation known as “RAWA” that if enacted would prohibit states from allowing real-money online casino games.

This week, former U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) penned a strong op-ed that outlined how a ban on internet poker could wreak havoc on the Constitution.

The idea, which is funded by casino owner Sheldon Adelson, is to roll back the clock and prevent New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, as well as states with online lotto sales (which includes Georgia), from continuing to permit internet betting.

Adelson’s RAWA presumably wouldn’t affect mobile sports betting happening in Nevada, nor daily fantasy sports. Sports betting is at all-time highs in the Silver State.

Adelson, the owner of the largest casino company in the world, sees internet casinos as a threat to his business. Some of his rivals have ventured into the space.

Even if you put aside the question of competitive fairness, RAWA could radically alter the United States itself, according to Westmoreland’s piece.

RAWA seeks to change that historic structure of the states governing themselves by having the federal government dictate gambling laws for everyone,” Westmoreland wrote. “That shift furthers the idea of a strong central government requiring uniformity in all states instead of recognizing the uniqueness of each individual state’s laws.”

RAWA becoming law isn’t the only way a prohibition could be put into place.

GamblingCompliance reported this week that there have been rumors on Capitol Hill that Attorney General Jeff Sessions might actually attempt to reverse a 2011 legal opinion from the Obama Department of Justice that re-interpreted the 1961 Wire Act so that states wouldn’t violate federal law by having online gambling. That opinion has only been bolstered since then.

That’s the backdoor approach to an internet poker ban. It would be challenged through the courts and states with internet gaming of any kind would likely win.

Either way, such a move from the Trump Administration won’t be well-received.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) held in February just outside the nation’s capital, a poll found that 91 percent of conservatives in attendance oppose the prohibition.

As of mid-April, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts are among the handful of states considering legalizing and regulating online gambling despite the federal threat.