RAWA Hearing Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing

The RAWA Hearing provided little comfort to supporters of online poker in the US.

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Yesterday’s sub-committee hearing on the Restoration of the Wire Act (RAWA) bill was not a shining example of the democratic process in action—biased and…

Yesterday’s sub-committee hearing on the Restoration of the Wire Act (RAWA) bill was not a shining example of the democratic process in action—biased and inaccurate testimony was presented in an environment where politicians were motivated more by the prospect of Sheldon Adelson’s money than by an honest desire to do the right thing for America.

The witnesses and committee attacked safe-gambling technology but called no technical experts to give evidence; they attacked gambling regulators but called no regulators.

Repetition of Propaganda

John Kindt, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois School of Law, quoted the soundbites from Adelson’s Campaign to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) adverts.

“Click your phone, lose your home” he offered, and “click your mouse, lose your house,” adding the opinion—now thoroughly disproved by rigorous academic research—that online gambling is the “the crack cocaine of gambling.”

A late addition to the witness list, Andrew Moylan, Executive Director and Senior Fellow at R Street Institute, opposed the bill on the basis that it infringed states’ rights guaranteed by the 10th amendment. Les Bernal, National Director of the Stop Predatory gambling Foundation, opposed all gambling.

Bernal was specifically opposed what he called “state sponsored internet gambling,” a definition which appeared to encompass state lotteries.

A minor dissension came from Michael Fagan who accepted that it was alright for states to authorize gaming so long as they kept it within their own borders. Paradoxically, for a law professor, he also expressed his support for RAWA which would outlaw such regulated gambling.

Technology

Parry Aftab of WiredSafety made several supportive points regarding the technological defenses now available. She said that it was true that you could not always identify a child online, but said that you could always identify an adult.

“The verdict is in—with the exception of a handful of incidents which were quickly addressed, all stakeholders are safer and minors are being locked out of online gambling sites,” Aftab told the committee.

The issues of crime and money laundering also failed to be presented honestly. Michael Fagan referred to reports of online gaming being used by organized crime without mentioning that the incidents referred to took place in non-regulated gambling environments.

Parry Aftab countered with the example of New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada and European models of gambling regulation which had virtually eradicated the criminal problems.

What was Achieved?

The House Sub-Committee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations can now tick the democratic process box that says it has held the requisite hearings. The members can point to their manipulation of the process to exclude testimony from industry, regulatory or technology experts and promote the fear-mongering views of Sheldon Adelson.

But was anything else really achieved? The bill has gathered substantial opposition perhaps to the point where it has only a small chance of passing.

Daniel Negreanu tweeted his opinion on the hearing, reflecting the opinions the process has made on many players and industry participants.

March 26, 2015
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