A POTENTIALLY NASTY SURPRISE IN THE SENATE FOR ONLINE GAMBLING?
But just what is the intention and detail of new bill S. 3376?
Industry observers were taken by surprise late Friday when a little-known Republican Senator from Arkansas, Tom Cotton, filed the beginnings of a new bill in the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary in what appears to be a move to toughen the US legal stance on the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006 and possibly the 1961 Wire Act.
The detail and intent of the bill is not yet known, because Cotton has merely filed a summary that states:
"S. 3376 – a bill to ensure the integrity of laws enacted to prevent the use of financial instruments for funding or operating online casinos are not undermined by legal opinions not carrying the force of law issued by Federal Government lawyers.”
That suggests that it is associated with UIGEA and probably the December 2011 US Department of Justice opinion that the Wire Act of 1961 applies only to online sports betting.
The bill comes as a surprise because it is late in the legislative season; interest in the Restoration of Americas Wire Act has been noticeably lacking in Congress this year; Cotton has not previously come to notice in this area, and he does not have a history of working with arch US online gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson.
Given the 2006 machinations which pushed the UIGEA through in a late night session of Congress attached to a totally unrelated but must-pass security measure, the industry is right to be wary of legislative moves like this, which may be designed to support more political manoeuvring and sleight of hand in the corridors of power, big money and influence.
And because it has been filed and is now part of Senate records, Cottons bill could potentially be one of the Christmas Tree amendments that can be attached to the coattails of other, and not necessarily related, bills as Congress winds down at the end of this season in December
Adelson is still splashing money around in mainly Republican Party political donations, and his pledge to spend "whatever it takes" to kill off online gambling legalization moves appears to be very much alive, albeit frustrated by the lack of progress of his RAWA proposal. There could be legitimate speculation that Cotton may be part of a new stratagem by the land casino moguls army of advisers and lobbyists.
Its early days yet, but the alarm bells have rung, and the industry will be watching developments on this legalization very carefully.