Advocates of online poker regulation in the U.S. can breathe a sigh of relief following Wednesday’s Congressional hearing on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a bill whose aim is to eradicate legalized igaming throughout the nation.
The hearing before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was declared a victory by the Poker Players Alliance, and that sentiment was likely echoed by anyone who viewed the proceedings either live or online. RAWA sponsor Rep. Jason Chaffetz, as well as his hand-picked witnesses who provided testifimony in favor of RAWA, came off as not very knowledgeable with regard to precise details of the issues at hand.
Once again ppa and poker players turn a potentially bad hearing into a clear victory for #poker rights!— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) December 9, 2015
Those issues pertained to how igaming might be vulnerable to criminal activity such as money laundering, and whether regulation, as made possible by a 2011 DoJ decision, allows every smart phone user to have a virtual casino at their fingertips. The title of the hearing, “A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications,” was rather tilted in favor of opponents of igaming regulation, but the results of the hearing seemingly shifted favor back to the side of online poker and gambling proponents.
That shift was made possible, in part, by a key witness who was anti-RAWA, Nevada Sen. Mark Lipparelli. The former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board was invited to testify, a likely concession made by Chaffetz in order to show some semblance of balance among the witnesses with regard to supporters and opponents of the bill. Chaffetz was criticized after a RAWA hearing held by a different committee in March that was slanted heavily in favor of pro-RAWA witnesses.
Lipparelli was the only anti-RAWA witness, but the committee has clearly made him the most relevant witness who has his facts #RJnow— Howard Stutz (@howardstutz) December 9, 2015
“If you were going to try to launder money, a legal regulated site would probably be the last place that you would want to try to do that,” Lipparelli told committee members.
The Nevada senator, who helped craft the stautes behind his state’s online poker regime, also pointed out that regulated igaming is working well in the states that have enacted such legislation. His testimony showed that regulation helps against crime.
Mr Lipparelli is clearly the only actual expert on iGaming on this panel, and he is doing an amazing job.— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) December 9, 2015
Lipparelli: says correctly that ILLEGAL #gaming should be the real focus of concerns— Ifrah Law (@ifrahlaw) December 9, 2015
Another witness, FBI Assistant Director Joseph Campbell, who was likely seen by Chaffetz as in favor of RAWA, seemed to back up Lipparelli when he stated that regulated online gambling has not been problematic. The FBI boss mentioned that he is more concerned with unregulated sites and criminal activity.
Two other witnesses, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson and Douglas County Attorney Donald W. Kleine from Nebraska, spoke in favor of RAWA – but both lacked a solid understanding of current regulation. Wilson mentioned that he hopes that geolocation technology will one day be accurate – when it already is. He and Kleine were both called out for their lack of knowledge about geolocation by Rep. Ted Lieu from California.
In fact, almost every committee member who gave their opinions about RAWA at the hearing did so in a way that showed either opposition to, or questioning the logic behind the measure. A number of the lawmakers seemed more informed than some of the witnesses.
A fine example was Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey: “The evidence clearly demonstrates that with proper regulation, in-state online gambling poses no more challenges to law enforcement or risk to consumers than brick and mortar casinos,” she said.
This has been a bloodbath for #RAWA and I think it could only get worse.-jp— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) December 9, 2015
Also called into question by committee members was the issue of state’s rights and how RAWA would take those away. South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie alluded to Tenth Amendment rights in their comments, as did Georgia Rep. Jody Hice. All were concerned that RAWA was perhaps treading where it should not.
All told, it was a pleasant day in the nation’s capital for the pro-online poker and gambling crowd. RAWA stands little chance of advancing via the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee based on today’s hearing. And perhaps any other committee, as support for RAWA continues to wane.