On Wednesday, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will host a hearing to discuss Jason Chaffetz’s (R-UT) proposed ban of online gambling, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.
The hearing has the not-so-subtle and leading title of: A CASINO IN EVERY SMARTPHONE – LAW ENFORCEMENT IMPLICATIONS.
This is the second RAWA hearing Chaffetz has conducted this year, and while the hearing has been in the works for over a month, it was only confirmed last week and it wasn’t until today that we got our first look at the invited witnesses.
The off the rails hearing
In March, Jason Chaffetz stacked his hearing with witnesses who were decidedly anti-gambling, and their anti-everything stances, accompanied by their hypothetical what-ifs, led to the hearing quickly spiraling out of the realm of facts and into fantasyland.
Based on the witness list for tomorrow’s RAWA hearing, this doesn’t seem like it will be an issue this time around.
Here is an overview of the four announced witnesses, and how their testimony may go.
Mr. Joseph S. Campbell, Assistant Director FBI Criminal Investigative Division
Law enforcement will be represented by the FBI’s Joseph Campbell, who will likely face a number of leading questions from Chaffetz about the potential for money laundering based on an older FBI letter that RAWA supporters like to hold up (but don’t really want you closely examining). However, if Campbell, or perhaps Mark Lipparelli, are able to expound on these concerns, it will be a win for legal, regulated online gambling supporters.
This isn’t the first time law enforcement has testified at a congressional online gambling hearing, and generally they are expected to remain neutral and factual in their responses.
Mark Lipparelli, Nevada State Senator and former NGCB Chairman
Before, during, and after his March hearing Chaffetz was also criticized for hosting a hearing about legal online gambling and not inviting someone from one of three states with legal online gambling – Nevada, Delaware, or New Jersey – to provide unique firsthand knowledge.
Chaffetz appears to have remedied this by inviting Mark Lipparelli, a current Nevada state senator who was the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board from 2011-2012 and helped craft the state’s online poker regulations.
Based on his experience in Nevada, Lipparelli will be able to provide a real-world assessment of online gambling, from legislation, to crafting regulations, to rollout, to the difference between regulated and unregulated markets. For an idea of his views, here is a 2013 interview Lipparelli gave to Online Poker Report on the topic of U.S. online gambling.
This won’t be Lipparelli’s first time explaining the legal online gaming process either, as he was part of a panel discussion at the 2014 East Coast Gaming Congress titled Lessons Learned: Takeaways from the Launch of iGaming in US Jurisdictions. Lipparelli is a regular attendee and speaker at gaming conferences.
Alan M. Wilson, Attorney General of South Carolina
Alan Wilson will be decidedly pro-RAWA, as he is one of eight attorneys general who signed their names to a letter supporting a RAWA-style federal ban of online gambling. A lot will likely be made of this support by Chaffetz, but when it’s put into context, it becomes quite apparent that a federal online gambling ban is losing support among state attorneys general.
Going back a bit further, in 2007 the number of attorneys general who supported prohibition of online gambling numbered 43.
The eight AG’s who have reportedly signed on to the most recent letter are:
- Maine AG Janet Mills
- Michigan AG Bill Schuette
- Missouri AG Chris Koster
- Nebraska AG Doug Peterson
- Nevada AG Adam Laxalt
- Oklahoma AG Scott Pruitt
- South Carolina AG Alan Wilson
- South Dakota AG Marty Jackley
Donald W. Kleine, Douglas County Attorney
Donald Kleine is the wildcard of the hearing, as there is scant information linking Kleine with gambling (online or brick and mortar) other than a few illegal gambling cases he has prosecuted.
Overall, Kleine looks like a solid witness, with an impressive resume. That being said, I’m sure Chaffetz didn’t pull his name out of a prosecutorial hat, and there is likely a very good reason he selected an unknown county attorney from Nebraska with no visible connections to online gambling to speak for prosecutors. Based on this, I expect Kleine to be in favor of a federal online gambling ban.
Based on the witness list, and the general malaise surrounding RAWA this year, I don’t expect this hearing to the move the needle in any meaningful way.
Chaffetz and fellow RAWA supporters will get their talking points in, they will be adequately refuted by other committee members with the help of Lipparelli and Campbell, and on Thursday, everyone will go back to trying to finish up their holiday shopping.