March 26 RAWA Hearing Looms With Little Possibility Of Appearances By Regulated iGaming Supporters

Steve Ruddock March 17, 2015 1270 Reads
RAWA online gambling hearing rescheduled

Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will finally get to throw a bone to Sheldon Adelson as a new hearing for his Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill has been announced.

This is the second attempt to hold a hearing on RAWA in front of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations this year. The first hearing (which was to take place on March 6th) was postponed over weather concerns.

RAWA is widely believed to have been written by – and introduced at the behest of – Sheldon Adelson, who has been on a veritable one-man crusade to ban online gambling over the past year and a half.

Chaffetz reintroduced RAWA earlier this year, after both he and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced identical RAWA bills during the 2014 congressional session. Senator Graham hasn’t resurrected RAWA in the Senate at this time, although he has commented that he will reintroduce RAWA at some point this year.

RAWA sat untouched for most of 2014 before a late push during the lame duck session to attach it to the CRomnibus spending bill that eventually fell short.

The blowback the measure has received may explain why Graham has yet to reintroduce the bill, and why Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R- IA) told CQ Roll Call that unlike the House, he had doubts RAWA could pass the Senate as it is currently written, and indicated RAWA may not even get a committee hearing in the upper chamber.

Still unfair and unbalanced?

If you’re an advocate for regulated iGaming, the tentative witness list for the cancelled March 6th hearing left a lot to be desired.

  • 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

Three of the four unofficial speakers are ardent opponents of online gambling (Kindt, Bernal, and Fagan), and not a single representative from one of the current licensed online gaming operators in the U.S. was expected to appear.

Also absent from the guest list were any regulators from New Jersey, Nevada, or Delaware (the three states with legalized online gaming) – ditto anyone from one of the companies that provide the safeguards for the industry such as geolocation (GeoComply) or player verification (CAMS).

Most observers were using the cringeworthy but apt poker expression of the hearing being a stacked deck.

iGaming industry likely to remain unrepresented

Instead of industry experts and people with real-world experience with licensed online gaming, questionable witnesses like Professor John Kindt were called. And considering the number of RAWA supporters on the subcommittee (including Chaffetz), they are likely going to espouse their questionable – and oftentimes unsubstantiated/misrepresented/debunked – views on online gambling unchallenged.

You can read more about the views, and previous comments, of the leaked witness list from the March 6th hearing here.

The hope is the outrage over the witness list, and the postponement of the hearing, will force the subcommittee to better balance the new witness list, but this is more of a hope than anything else.

Don’t expect to have an official witness list until the hearing is called to order. The original hearing was cancelled the day before it was slated to take place, yet the subcommittee failed to release a witness list for the hearing – we were only aware of the four witnesses listed above because of inside information.

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