What do two-time world poker champ Doyle “Texas Dolly” Brunson, presidential-hopeful Rand Paul, and Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury have in common? They’ve all come out against the so-called Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which would create a national prohibition on Internet gambling.
They are just three of the thousands of Americans who oppose a law that was written by and for the benefit of one casino owner: Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson. RAWA is not only a threat to those who want the freedom to gamble online, but also to those who value personal liberty, consumer protections, and a limited federal government.
A two-time World Series of Poker champ, an inductee to the Poker Hall of Fame, and author of the poker bible, Texas Dolly is without question the most famous professional poker player alive. He regularly tweets using his handle @TexDolly, and on April 2, he posted a tweet to his 415,000 followers, requesting signatures for the White House petition, asking President Obama to veto RAWA should it land on his desk (add your signature here).
Despite being a bona fide legend—and approaching his 82nd birthday—Brunson has remained competitive with younger and more aggressive poker players, while keeping up with a shifting technological and political landscape. In 2004, he was one of the first poker celebs to set up his own online poker platform, Doyle’s Room (though he is no longer involved). He certainly seems to have a better grasp of the current state of technology than 81-year-old Sheldon Adelson, who said his one- and three-year-old grandchildren can navigate an iPad better than he can.
Presidential hopeful Rand Paul has also been vocal on this issue. When asked by The Alpha Pages about his thoughts on attempts to restrict online poker, Paul responded that he is “opposed to restrictions on online gambling. The government needs to stay out of that business.” (His stance shouldn’t be too surprising considering that Rand’s father, former Congressman Ron Paul, has been vociferous in his opposition to a national gambling prohibition.)
Proponents of an online gambling ban argue that it is necessary to protect consumers from crime. But Chuck Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police, disagrees. In a March 2014 opinion piece for The Hill, he argues that a national ban would do nothing to make citizens or officers safer and would only intensify participation in the online gambling black market, which has no oversight.
Not only does the black market for Internet gaming include no consumer protections, it also operates entirely offshore with unlicensed operators, drastically increasing the threat of identity theft, fraud or other criminal acts.
Canterbury also notes that a national ban would remove the protections instituted by the states that have chosen to legalize and regulate online gambling—Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada. “Essentially, you are banning a well-regulated system, in favor of an unregulated, unprotected, black market,” he writes.
In December 2014, Canterbury reiterated his position in a letter addressed to Congressional leaders of both parties, Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell and Reps. John Boehner and Rep. Nancy Pelosi. “Congress cannot ban its way out of this problem as this would simply drive online gaming further and further underground and put more people at risk,” wrote Canterbury, calling a national ban “irresponsible.”
These are only three voices, but their opinions are shared by the thousands of Americans who have signed onto the White House petition asking President Obama to veto RAWA. As the petition, notes, “RAWA benefits only certain large donors,” violates the rights of states to regulate this form of intrastate commerce, and sets a dangerous precedent for Internet regulation. The petition has more than 4,000 signatures to date. The deadline to get 100,000 signatures in order for the White House to respond is Saturday, May 2.
State officials are also speaking out. The New Jersey Assembly has passed a resolution urging Congress to oppose RAWA, and Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a similar resolution. Additionally, groups like the Democratic Governors Association, National Governors Association, and National Conference of State Legislators oppose RAWA.
The question is: will Congress listen to thousands of Americans or do the bidding of one extremely wealthy donor?
Do you have an opinion on the Internet gambling ban? Have your voice heard by signing the White House petition here.