A bill has been introduced in Congress called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) that is a solution without a problem. It would outlaw online gambling in the U.S., wiping out state-regulated online gaming operations in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.
Recently the attorneys general of Missouri and South Carolina sent out a letter to the attorneys general of other states asking each to support the passage of RAWA. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has said publicly he would sign on to the letter, prompting a backlash from Gov. Brian Sandoval and others who say the legislation amounts to a usurpation of states’ rights.
“The gaming industry is changing and in order for Nevada’s businesses to maintain a competitive edge internationally, we must enact policies that allow the industry to meet the demands of a younger, more technologically engaged gamer. The groundbreaking online gaming bill previously passed by the legislature provides local businesses with an environment where they can grow and prosper. This measure also ensures our regulatory bodies, which are considered the best in the world, will continue to develop policies that will ensure Nevada remains the global epicenter for gaming development,” said Sandoval in a statement posted online. “Furthermore, as a former Attorney General, Gaming Commission Chairman and someone who worked with the industry and the Legislature on Nevada’s online poker legislation, I am very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law in our leading industry. At its core, this is a state’s rights issue and I disagree with the Attorney General that a federal government one-size-fits-all solution is in the best interest of Nevada.”
One of the high-profile backers of the federal law is Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. He also was a contributor to Laxalt’s election campaign, though Laxalt has said he has not discussed the matter with Adelson.
RAWA backers say a 2011 Department of Justice opinion opened the door to online gambling, though others say it was the proper interpretation of the law as written. In fact, the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act of 2006 specifically authorized states and tribes to license online gambling inside their jurisdictions.
Police powers — including everything from zoning and building codes to writing criminal law and regulating liquor, gambling, traffic, morals and assorted nuisances — have long been considered the purview of the states under the 10th Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people,” though this has been eroded since the New Deal era.
Nevada currently has two online poker websites established under state law. These are operated by a division of Caesars and the South Point casino. Station Casinos earlier closed down an online poker operation.
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo Jr. has been quoted in the press as saying RAWA would “stifle creativity and innovation” in the industry in the state, noting Nevada allows casinos to use mobile gaming, wide-area-progressive slot machines and other interactive gaming endeavors.
These have the potential to generate profits for the industry and thus revenue for the state, Alamo was quoted as saying.
We ask our lawmakers to oppose this federal power grab and let Nevada continue to regulate gaming within its borders as a constitutional states’ right and call on Attorney General Laxalt to reconsider throwing his support behind this measure.
A version of this editorial appears this past week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.