Analysis: All Rhetoric and Little to No Facts at RAWA Hearing

Published April 1, 2015 by Amir G

Analysis: All Rhetoric and Little to No Facts at RAWA Hearing

Wednesday's hearing on RAWA has yet again showcased lawmakers' disconnection from reality in all that has to do with online gaming.

After many preparations, Wednesday saw the first hearing on the Restoration of America's Wire Act (RAWA) at the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. Introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the RAWA seeks to rewrite and update the Federal Wire Act of 1961 so that it will outlaw the major part of online gambling forms on a federal level – overriding specific state government laws.

One of the major forces behind the pushing of the bill is believed to be casino mogul Sheldon Adelson who has never missed an opportunity to express his disapproval of online gambling regulation.

Questionable Witness Line-up

The hearing was a poor show of cheap rhetoric over the discussion of solid facts. The line-up of witnesses which spoke at the hearing raises questions, as not even one individual with online gambling regulation experience spoke, something which could have been done seeing that there are regulated states in the US, specifically New Jersey.

For example, Director of the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement David Rebuck could have provided to-the-point answers on the main issues that are repeated by regulation prophets of the apocalypse, things such as age and identity verification and geolocation gripes. The lack of expert witnesses that could provide solid answers might be an indication of the Committee's tendency to repress the subject, instead of opening it to a true fundamental discussion.

De-synced from Reality

What happened at the latest hearing is not new in the history of online gambling bills discussed at the Congress. The same old recycled fears about "corruption", "organized crime" and other nice words which are so easily used in one breathe with online gambling, completely disregarding a present reality that is actually happening in the world.

Thriving countries like the UK and others which got on with the times, regulated online gambling to players' benefits, the benefits of liberal values and the state coffers which notably fill up from revenues. Regulators from these countries could have been invited to present their stance on the matter, for example.

States' Rights Issue

The discussion on RAWA might be shifted to places much higher than just the specific matter at hand. Updating the old act which was written in a time long before personal computers and the internet were around will effectively nullify the laws of states which have regulated online gambling as well as other forms of gambling like lottery and horse racing.

This could ignite a discussion on states' lawmaking rights and the ability and extent of federal laws to invalidate these. But it is also a question of values, as executive director of the Poker Players Alliance John Pappas commented: The ability of one wealthy and powerful man to impose a federal prohibition on American citizen's internet freedom is worrying.

What's Next?

The hearing concluded with no action taken in regards to RAWA, but Chaffetz and other pushers of the bill are planning to take it to markup in order to vote it out of the committee so it will go to the House for voting. Despite the poor hearing, proponents of online gambling at the US must alert and prepared so that there will not be another "Black Friday" that sneaks from the backdoor.

See also

US Gambling Legislation: Date Set for Congress Hearing on RAWA

RAWA Gets Second Hearing for December

Online Gambling Ban Hearing: December 3

Next Full Tilt Poker Hearing

US Congress to Hold Hearing About DFS and Online Gambling Next Month


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