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According to Michelle Minton, there will be a hearing on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the online gambling ban proposed by Sheldon Adelson and introduced into the House of Representatives by Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), on March 5th in the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations. Chaffetz is a member of the committee.

Chaffetz, along with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), first introduced RAWA last March, but neither the House or Senate version was brought up in committee in 2014. There was a late push to try to get the bill included in the trillion-dollar CRomnibus spending bill that passed in the Lame Duck session of 2014, but these efforts came up short.


What to expect on March 5th

How the hearing will go depends entirely on who is called to testify. Adelson’s allies have proven they’re not ready for prime time in previous hearings, often stumbling over their own talking points and unable to adequately answer questions on the inherent hypocrisy of a casino mogul opposing online gambling.

However, if RAWA-friendly lawmakers are allowed to control the hearing right down to the invite-list, the hearing will be little more than political theater, with Adelson’s talking points being spouted unopposed.

My expectation is more of the latter, considering the makeup of the committee.


The House Subcommittee on Crime

The House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations is a subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee and is chaired by Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) with Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) serving as the Vice-Chairman.

The Republicans on the committee number 10 members, and include Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Rep. Steve Chabot, Rep. Randy Forbes, Rep. Ted Poe, Rep. Trey Gowdy, Rep. Raul Labrador, Rep. Ken Buck, and Rep. Mike Bishop.

There are a total of six Democrats on the subcommittee: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Rep. Pedro Pierluisi, Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Rep. Karen Bass, and Rep. Cedric Richmond.

Should the hearing turn into a dog and pony show, the opposition and hard questions from the Democratic side might come from Karen Bass, who represents California, and Luis Gutierrez, an outspoken critic of Republicans.

Of the 16 members of the subcommittee, five of the 16 sponsored or cosponsored RAWA in 2014 and/or 2015 – Louie Gohmert, Randy Forbes, Trey Gowdy, Cedric Richmond, and of course Jason Chaffetz.


RAWA is still unlikely to pass

No movement on RAWA is good news for online gaming advocates, but the hearing is not something that should be too concerning. Several online poker legalization bills had similar hearings, and one, Barney Frank’s 2010 bill, even passed committee and was submitted to the House of Representatives for a floor vote – which it never received.

In the battle over online gambling, Adelson is losing the argument but winning the funding battle, which has allowed him to prolong the inevitable result. The politicians that are supporting his gambling ban simply have their hands stretched out to gobble up whatever funds they can before the charade comes to an end.

Powerful organizations came out against the bill including Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, who threatened lawmakers last year that a vote for RAWA would be considered in their next rating. RAWA is a vote conservatives cannot make without being primaried, and Democrats would be loathe to appear in cahoots with Adelson on any issue.

Read more on the diverse opposition to RAWA and how best to fight back against the proposed online gaming ban here.

Sure, several lawmakers are willing to deal with the political fallout their support of RAWA will bring, but for many the risk outweighs the reward, and RAWA is a bill they don’t want to vote on, either yea or nay.

In my estimation, RAWA is a DOA bill. Every major outlet (conservative and liberal) bashed RAWA in 2014 as cronyism, and every outlet will bash RAWA in 2015 if it gains the slightest bit of momentum in Congress.

Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.