Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Opposition to RAWA – We Are Not Alone

Colorful, fun to play, and online
It’s easy to get all wrapped up in the battle against Sheldon Adelson, his Coalition, and his Congressional minions, and think it’s just about poker.  Certainly, for many reading this post, it’s ALL about poker.  It’s certainly the most visible aspect of the battle – UIGEA and Black Friday were specifically directed at closing down the Internet Poker industry here in the US.

But the movement to re-grab the Internet for GAMBLING came from the Lotteries, not poker.  The Department of Justice’s December, 2011 decision was in response to running online lotteries.  The New York Times summed it up as such:

The legal opinion…came in response to requests by New York and Illinois to clarify whether the Wire Act of 1961, which prohibits wagering over telecommunications systems that cross state or national borders, prevented those states from using the Internet to sell lottery tickets to adults within their own borders.  Although the opinion dealt specifically with lottery tickets, it opened the door for states to allow Internet poker and other forms of online betting that do not involve sports.

So while we in the poker community fume and fuss and Tweet and write letters and contact our Congresspersons and such, how are the state’s with online Lotteries looking at the potential for a “Restoration of America’s Wire Act?”

They’re equally pissed.

I contacted ten different state Lotteries to see what their position on RAWA was – some, like Michigan and Illinois have active online lotto activity; some, like Ohio and West Virginia, are contemplating it and/or actively pursuing it.

As you might imagine, they see this like we do – as a direct threat and as infringement on state’s rights.  Jeffrey Holyfield, Director of Public Relations for the Michigan Lottery, summed it up nicely:

The Michigan Lottery is opposed to that legislation. If it becomes law, this legislation would halt the Michigan Lottery’s successful sale of online games, which were offered to players beginning last year.  Those games are expected to increase significantly the Lottery’s contributions to the state School Aid Fund.  The Lottery estimates the online games will allow it to provide an additional $480 million over the next eight years to support public education in Michigan. More than 73 percent of adults in Michigan already play lottery games and the latest research finds 33 percent of players want to do so online.  In fact, more than 100,000 players already have registered to play the Michigan Lottery’s online games.

Last year, David Gale, Executive Director of NASPL (North American Association of State & Provincial Lotteries), fired off a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham about RAWA. You can read the letter here, but the key ‘graph is this (italics are mine):

Our Association believes, and is on record, that all gaming should be left up to the individual states to determine the games that are offered, as well as the manner in which they are being delivered to their customers. This is, and has always been, a state’s right to make these decisions as they relate to gaming within its respective borders.

Also, Tom Tulloch, Director of Administration for NASPL, wrote back to me assuring that their feelings on this issue were “…basically identical.”  ‘nuff said.

Granted, not everyone “gets it.”  The folks at Massachusetts Lottery might not realize the bill’s impact, as they told me:

The Massachusetts State Lottery has no formal position on HR 707.  
Playing poker, online or otherwise, is illegal in the state, so the Mass State Lottery has never had any authority or regulation concerning poker.

Yes, I did write back to them clueing them in (there was talk in 2012 about Mass State Lotto going online).  No word back yet. 

My point is this – if you are a Senator or Congressperson from a state that has online gaming, either the three with poker/casino, or the many who HAVE online lottery games/sales or are contemplating it – how “excited” will you be to voice support of RAWA knowing that it hurts your home state’s revenue stream?

Yes, some (Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, for example) will seek a “carve-out” for state lotteries, but ask yourself – what makes a state lottery any safer and less attractive to children and/or terrorists than an online poker site?  Well, yeah.  If Michigan Lotto has already signed up 100,000 players, think how many might sign a petition against RAWA.  Or vote against a legislator that made it happen.

We’re not alone in this, and we need to join forces with those states who see the Internet as a useful tool in promoting ALL kinds of gambling (I think it’s the wave of the future).


  1. I don't think that websites like should be restricted, they are the source of a lot of people's income... just saying.

    1. Neither do I - and that's the point - DFS should be OK (and they are legal as of now), Horse racing (also legal now), Lotteries, Poker, all gambling casino games. After all - what makes DFS any safer than a poker site?