US Congress

RAWA Hearing Shifted, Opponents Plan Technology Showing

Next week’s initial US Congressional hearing connected with the recent introduction of the “Restore America’s Wire Act” bill (RAWA) has been shifted forward by one day to March 25th, according to information released on the US House Judiciary Committee’s official online calendar earlier today.

The official change to the hearing’s date and time (4:00 p.m.) represent a minor change to unofficial information shared last week by Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas, who last week stated that the hearing was tentatively scheduled for March 26th.  The hearing itself is an official rescheduling from an earlier cancellation on March 5th, forced by an impending spring snowstorm that hindered travel in the greater Washington D.C. area on that date.

congress-stepsThe hearing’s reslating for March 25th comes as technological savvy opponents of RAWA have announced their informal Congressional demonstration of the identity and location used in conjunction with online gambling.  The demonstration is designed to debunk many of the scare-tactic claims made by RAWA’s supporters and backers.

The demonstration is titled “How Does Technology Ensure Online Gaming Compliance?” and is designed to allow House Judiciary Committee members attend.  Earlier, that same day, at 10 a.m., pro-online representatives will set up shop at in the “Hall of States” room at the John F. Kennedy Center, just to the north of the US Capitol, to demonstrate some of the industry’s technology.

Already on board as presenters at the tech demo, according to an update at USPoker, are GeoComply CEO Anna Sainsbury and unnamed representatives from Caesars Interactive, which has successfully launched online gambling operations in New Jersey and Nevada.  Sainsbury and GeoCompy are at the forefront of geolocation verification services as they relate to online gambling.  It’s unknown if the demonstration will also include a technical demonstration from an ID-verifying company, though Caesars’ own demonstration is likely to cover much of that territory.

The location of the tech demo at the Hall of States is itself a curious development.  The facility within the JFK Center serves as a frequent home for state-level interests and seminars when topics of shared interest also arise at the federal level, as has happened with RAWA.  The pro-gambling forces are generally aligned with various “states rights,” which are widespread and adamantly against RAWA on the basis that the gambling activities RAWA would seek to preemptively ban are traditional areas under state-level regulatory control.

Though only three US states have formally legalized and introduced online gambling to date, several others are exploring the industry, and at least a half dozen other US states have already introduced or are planning to introduce online lottery sales, another activity which would be declared illegal under the initial form of RAWA.

The PPA’s Pappas was also busy of late mounting additional defensive resources against RAWA and its backers, first and foremost of which remains billionaire GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, the anti-online-gambling CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp.  Pappas wrote a guest editorial this week at the DC-based RollCall in which he attacked the faulty logic inherent in RAWA and the supporting claims made by its backers, including primary sponsor Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).

To many observers’ surprise, Pappas never even named puppetmaster Adelson within his RoleCall op/ed, though PPA veep Rich Muny was quick to tie in the bill’s backer in the story’s comment section.  As Pappas noted, RAWA is a horrible misnoner, a fraud of a bill; it “restores” nothing to the outdated 1961 Wire Act, but instead attempts to expand it to cover activities never intended or referred to by that older bill’s authors.

Pappas’s RollCall piece begins by giving a brief history of the Wire Act, its original intended targets, and the way it became outdated over a half century on the books.  It’s in the way that RAWA’s current backers intentionally misconstrued the old Wire Act, however, that Pappas offered a sharper tongue.

Wrote Pappas:

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Chaffetz is convinced it was Congress’ intent when the act was passed, more than 50 years ago, to prohibit all forms of gambling over the Internet. RAWA would not “restore” the Wire Act, it would actually create a brand new federal law that would usurp states’ rights to regulate and police online gaming within their own borders. Perversely, prohibition would roll back successful consumer protection driven policies states have already established to authorize Internet poker and other forms of online wagering, leaving consumers completely unprotected and doing nothing to stop illegal offshore Internet gambling from continuing to attract U.S. customers.

Advocates of RAWA claim their bill will ban online gaming, yet it does nothing of the sort. RAWA contains two major exemptions for Internet horse racing and fantasy sports — both of which are widespread and available throughout the United States today. It also does nothing to address the current offshore and unregulated market that exists today in all 50 states. The only thing RAWA bans is states from authorizing and safeguarding online gaming for its citizens.

Pappas’s piece than concluded with a reference to the way that online gambling has already been implemented with successful identity and location protections.  One can safely bet that the schedule for next week’s tech demo at the Hall of States has already been delivered to every Congressman who’s a member of the Judiciary Committee, if not to each and every one of Congress’s 538 members.

Thursday’s RAWA hearing will be available live via webcast, though it’s expected to be largely a charade designed to promote bill-backer Adelson’s interests.  Three of the four known opinion-providing witnesses for the hearing are known to be hard-core opponents of online gambling, with one of those already having a long track record of offering spurious claims based upon false or misinterpreted statistical evidence.  It’ll be interesting to see if this latest RAWA hearing offers more of the same.

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