To say the witnesses that will testify before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations during the hearing to discuss HR 707 (Restoration of America’s Wire Act or RAWA) will be anti-online gambling would be like saying Boston got a little bit of snow this winter.
Three of the four rumored witnesses are ardently against online gambling, with one, Professor John Kindt of the University of Illinois, going so far as to call for the U.S. to mirror the policies of Vladimir Putin when it comes to gaming laws. Or if Putin is a bit too tame, he also likes the gaming policies of Chechen President Ramazan Kadyrov, who just so happens to land on Human Rights Watch list of human rights violators.
Yes, this is who has been called to testify.
Not David Rebuck, the Head of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, or CAMS CEO Matthew Katz (CAMS is one of the companies that provides player verification for online poker sites), or a representative from a legal online gambling operator such as MGM, Caesars, or Landry’s Inc.
Here is the tentative witness list (none of these names have been officially announced):
- Professor John Kindt, University of Illinois
- Les Bernal, National Director, Stop Predatory Gambling
- Professor Mike Fagan, Wash U – St. Louis Law School
- Parry Aftab, Attorney specializing in Internet Privacy and Security, and former Board member of the now defunct online gaming lobby group FairPlay USA
The one voice of reason, Parry Aftab
Parry Aftab is currently the only pro-regulation voice on the witness list. Fortunately, Aftab is a strong, educated voice, and has been a vocal advocate for regulating online gambling for a number of years. She has been called on several times by Congress and state legislatures to offer up expert testimony.
Les Bernal and Professor Mike Fagan
While I may not agree with them when it comes to online gambling, Les Bernal and Mike Fagan are honest players, and both are considered credible witnesses. Neither will be pro-online gambling by any stretch of the imagination, but I do expect them to be honest brokers.
In 2010 Professor Fagan submitted 7-pages of written testimony when former Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) was pushing for online gambling legalization.
In his testimony, Fagan seemed to be more concerned with the involvement of “criminal elements” and “corner cutters” than online gambling itself, so it will be interesting to see how his opinions have evolved now that we have several examples of legalized online gambling in the U.S.
As the head of the lobby group Stop Predatory Gambling, Bernal can be classified as anti-gambling, but unlike some RAWA supporters, Bernal is against all forms of gambling.
Expect his testimony to satiate the RAWA crowd, but he is far from being in lock-step with them. In fact, the exemptions for horseracing and DFS in RAWA present Bernal with a paradox – so it might be fun to ask him his thoughts on the group’s Twitter account.
Professor Kindt is a different story
Professor Kindt, the originator of the “online gambling is the crack cocaine of gambling” line will likely give the fieriest testimony. And while he can talk a good game, the facts simply don’t back him up.
Not only is Kindt in favor of criminalizing all forms of gambling (like in his model: Putin’s Russia), but in 2005 he also suggested the government could seize tribal casinos and turn them into “educational, cultural, and business facilities ” under the guise of “allegations of misuse, non-accounting, and even malfeasance involving gambling revenues in Native American operations…”
Professor Kindt also has an issue with facts. His continued misrepresentation of what the National Gambling Impact Study Commission (NGISC) stated has led to the constant utterance of his crack-cocaine allegation is just one example.
“Experts in the field of pathological gambling have expressed concern over the potential abuse of this technology by problem and pathological gamblers. The director of the Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addiction Studies, Dr. Howard J. Shaffer, likened the Internet to new delivery forms for addictive narcotics.
He stated, “As smoking crack cocaine changed the cocaine experience, I think electronics is going to change the way gambling is experienced.”
Even more troubling than misrepresenting the findings of others, Kindt’s research and methods have been called into question by a number of other gambling researchers.
In fact, the NGISC, which Kindt is so fond of misquoting, debunked four of his claims back in 1999 – yet this hasn’t stopped Professor Kindt from regurgitating them as facts to this day.
So one of the key witnesses being called by RAWA supporters is:
- Someone who idealizes the gaming policies of Chechnya and Russia;
- And someone whose claims have been debunked by peers, but continues to cite false and/or disproven data and research.
As Theoden would say: