The forces behind the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — federal legislation that seeks to ban iGaming — could stop online gambling in Pennsylvania before it ever gets a chance to start.
RAWA’s new direction?
A recent report at Gambling Compliance noted that RAWA, which has gained little traction in its current version, could change its aim and scope. Instead of trying to ban internet gambling right off the bat, legislators could shift to “a study and moratorium on online gaming expansion.”
While it’s unclear how much support a new version of RAWA would garner, it probably can’t be much less than the original version has received.
So far there has been little vocal support for the bill, outside of Republicans who are in the corner of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in his fight against internet gambling — RAWA sponsors Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The bill has generally been considered a non-starter by Congressional experts and iGaming analysts, at least until now.
A new story at The Hill — a media outlet covering happenings in Congress — noted that former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) are among those that have signed on to help Adelson’s lobbying group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
The addition of that political clout — and a new direction for the bill — have the potential to give the bill new life. Still American Gaming Association President Geoff Freeman seemed to downplay the legislation’s chances in a recent interview.
So what does all that mean for Pennsylvania?
While the bill is a federal one, it would shut down online gambling in the states that have already regulated it — Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware — in addition to ones that do not, in its current form.
The possible revised version of RAWA would allow those states to keep regulated online gaming, while stopping any states that do not have regulated iGaming, currently. That would render moot any efforts in states like Pennsylvania and California, which have active bills in the state legislature.
The bottom line: If RAWA passes, in any form, Pennsylvania online gambling will not happen. The issue was addressed in a Pennsylvania Senate committee hearing last month. Since a revised version of RAWA would seem to have a non-zero chance of passing, it would appear to at least be a threat to the possibility of Pennsylvania online gambling.
Pennsylvania might want to hurry, just in case
If Pennsylvania is truly serious about iGaming, it should pass legislation now. While the possibility of RAWA passing still might not be great, it does have a chance of taking Pennsylvania’s destiny out of its own hands.
If the state legislature passes legislation now, it would likely be grandfathered in, should the “moratorium” version of the bill be turned into law. Failing to a pass a bill during the current legislative session could mean RAWA takes precedence.
Right now, online gambling has been largely off the radar during Pennsylvania’s budget impasse, which has now clocked in at more than two weeks in a standoff between Republican legislators and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
While online gambling certainly isn’t off the table entirely as the two sides try to find middle ground in their budget talks, interested parties should consider the possible consequences of waiting on iGaming legislation. If it’s not passed now, it’s conceivable the state won’t have another chance.