Thursday December 10,2015 : CHAFFETZ UNLIKELY TO BE PLEASED WITH OUTCOME OF R.A.W.A. HEARING (Update)
Preference for regulation over banning apparent with committee members.
If Rep. Jason Chaffetz's ambition was to reignite his languishing Restoration of America's Wire Act proposal at his House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing Wednesday, he will be a disappointed man; widespread media coverage showed almost unanimously that the preference that emerged from the rather rambling affair was one for regulation and licensing of online gambling in the United States, and not the bans that RAWA proposes.
Chaffetz showed his usual bias against the industry from the get-go, starting the hearing – titled “A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications” by observing in a ten minute introduction:
"Now, anything connected to the Internet, desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, no matter your age, is becoming a casino. I've got a problem with that. I think the American people have a problem with that."
The more balanced witness list resulted in evidence that was more in touch with reality, although the anti-online gambling element insisted on trotting out the same old misinformed, emotional and inaccurate hypotheses, claiming that the industry is a fertile ground for money laundering, terrorist funding, underage and problem gambling and unfair practice.
They also attacked now proven technologies like ID verification and geo-locating, leaving many wondering if they really understand modern tech developments or have taken on board the practical experiences and successes in the three US states that have legalised online gambling.
However, the ever-patient Rep. Ted Lieu once again tried to educate the doubters, presenting a video on geo-location to refute opinions that such technology is not effective.
Former Nevada regulator Mark Lipparelli also vouched for the availability of effective technology that enables individual states to conduct online gambling within their borders if they so wish.
The spectre of federal intrusion into affairs traditionally handled by individual states was once again ever-present at the hearing, as usual casting a shadow over RAWA.
Some pro-RAWA speakers tried to argue that a federal ban was necessary to ensure uniformity across all the states.
South Carolina AG Alan Wilson testified in support of RAWA, asserting, “It is not a violation of the Tenth Amendment when Congress has the authority to regulate online gambling under the Commerce Clause."
That view was strongly rejected by fellow South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who said there was no place for federal interference when technology enabled individual states to ring-fence their decisions on internet gambling.
The discussion on states' rights spilled over into gun laws, raising the question of the same "uniformity" logic behind RAWA being extended by the federal government to other issues traditionally handled by individual states.
Even the FBI contribution looked like a backfire for Chaffetz and his land casino inspiration, Sheldon Adelson: Criminal Investigative Division Assistant Director Joseph Campbell’s testimony included the observation that: "…online casinos – just like physical casinos – are potentially susceptible to criminal schemes and money laundering because of the possibility of criminals concealing their identity, location, and actual gambling activity."
According to a report on the FBI website, Campbell said that the FBI and the Department of Justice take the issue of illegal gambling – which includes online gambling – very seriously and have carefully used their limited resources to focus their investigations and prosecutions of Internet gambling on those groups engaged in the most egregious criminal conduct.
Several reports on the hearing pointed to an apparently broad bipartisan support for regulation and licensing over prohibitions such as those envisaged by RAWA.
Referencing reports that the inspiration for RAWA comes from land casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, the committee’s ranking member, Democratic Party Rep. Elijah Cummings condemned crony capitalism and commented that the issue was "all about the money" and a ban on online gambling would benefit land casino operators.
Fellow Democrat Rep. Bonnie Coleman of New Jersey added that properly regulated and state licensed online gambling poses no more challenges to law enforcement or risk to consumers than brick-and-mortar casinos.
Most opinions on this second RAWA hearing this year appear to suggest that there was little that was new in the conflicting views that were presented, but that there was a more balanced approach evident that sided strongly with regulatory rather than prohibitive action…and that action should take place at state level.
It appears likely that, like last year, RAWA will probably remain in limbo until fresh efforts to reintroduce this controversial measure are made next year.