Sen. Marco Rubio wants iGaming banned – But thinks Poker is Okay

Florida Senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio is not a big fan of online gaming. In fact, the Republican has co-sponsored the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which seeks to ban iGaming on a federal level. But interestingly enough, he seems perfectly fine with the idea of online poker. Let’s discuss exactly why Rubio thinks poker is an exception and if there’s any chance for iPoker to be legalized on a federal level.

Rubio appreciates Poker’s Skill Element

Unlike many forms of gambling, such as slots or keno, poker actually has a skill element. And Sen. Rubio believes that the game could receive a carve-out in his proposed iGaming ban.

“On the issue of internet poker, the only difference between the poker games and the others is that it involves an element of skill associated with and compared with just a slot machine online,” Rubio said. “So that’s the one area that distinguishes it a little bit.”

He added that the hotly debated daily fantasy sports (DFS) could also find an exemption if online gaming were ever banned.

“(Like poker) you are still dealt a hand in terms of how players perform or injuries or things that are unanticipated.”

Why does Rubio want iGaming banned?

Despite his appreciation for skill-based forms of gambling, Rubio seems to be quite opposed to online casino gaming. He doesn’t agree with the U.S. Department of Justice’s interpretation of the Wire Act (that it only applies to sports betting) and is mainly worried about consumers in the unregulated market.

“I’m concerned about particularly (iGaming’s) rapid expansion in an unregulated way.” Rubio added, “These are going to be ongoing issues in the 21st century. The internet and connectivity have created both new opportunities and new challenges.”

Do other Anti-Online Gaming Politicians agree?

Rubio’s idea of a poker carve-out is not totally original. Nevada Senator Harry Reid, who’s previously discussed an iGaming ban, has also expressed support for a poker exemption.

However, others don’t see poker as deserving of any special treatment. Fellow RAWA co-sponsors South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz aren’t of the opinion that online poker should be exempted.

Sheldon Adelson’s Money would determine if Poker gets a Carve-Out

As you may know, Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson is backing RAWA and funding many of the politicians who support the bill. So it should be little surprise that Andy Abboud, Senior Vice President of Government Relations for Sands, said that there are no plans for a poker carve-out.

“There is no carve-out from the bill’s sponsors,” Abboud explained. “There may be some varying opinions from the co-sponsors, but there really isn’t any push for it.”

Adelson is giving out millions of dollars in campaign contributions to further his anti-online gaming agenda. And while most see RAWA’s chances of passing as very slim, these efforts have slowed the expansion of U.S. iGaming. If by chance RAWA did pass, it would most likely be Adelson’s wishes that would be granted, rather than Rubio’s opinion that poker would be okay. So long story short, iPoker players should still hope that RAWA’s odds of passing remain low.

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