Rep. Jason Chaffetz to Hold Online Gambling Hearing Wednesday

If Wednesday is anything like March 25th, poker fans will be facing palming over more than just Donald Trump’s latest insane ramblings. That’s because there is a high chance of more insane ramblings coming from the Rayburn House Office Building during the online gambling hearing in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

US Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

US Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

That committee is chaired by Cha-Ka in a suit Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah), who not at all coincidentally is also the Representative who introduced Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in the House of Representatives. You see, Adelson is the CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and because he has never taken a moment to think seriously about online gambling, he believes that the more people participate in online gambling, the less people there will be who want to go to his casinos. Thus, he uses his extensive wealth to get people to craft and introduce legislation that he believes would help his personal business. And since he is a billionaire whose hobby is funding Republican politicians, there are always eager apprentices who want to learn the secrets of the Dark Side from Emperor Sheldon. Hence why RAWA even saw the time of day in Congress in the first place.

Now, the hearing isn’t specifically *supposed* to be about RAWA, but you know it’s going to be. First of all, the title of the hearing is the utterly unsubtle “A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications.” Second, check out the “Background” section of the hearing’s website:

• In 2011, DOJ OLC reversed a longstanding DOJ policy by declaring that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting and not all forms of betting. This policy reversal potentially opens the door for online gambling in all 50 states.
• Lawmakers argue that a policy change of this magnitude should be determined by Congress and not DOJ.
• As a result of the OLC memo, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have already licensed online gambling, and many states are looking to follow their lead.
• Earlier this year, Chairman Chaffetz introduced H.R. 707, Restore America’s Wire Act, which would clarify that the Wire Act bans all forms of internet gambling.
• Newsweek included an in-depth look at online gambling’s effect on children, among other things, in an August 2014 issue.

Those “lawmakers” referenced above? That is Chaffetz referencing his own press release from February. In that press release, he mentions the sixteen state Attorneys General who signed a petition in 2014 urging Congressional leaders to support RAWA. Why he’s bragging about that, I don’t know. The same basic petition is going around right now and only eight have signed it with no indication that many more, if any will.

Here is the stated “Purpose” of the hearing:

• To examine how due to the inherently interstate and borderless nature of the internet, the 2011 Department of Justice (DOJ) Office of Legal Council (OLC) memo potentially opens the door to a casino in every smartphone around the country.
• To examine how online gambling is vulnerable to being used for money laundering, terrorist financing, fraud, and other criminal activity.

If thee hearing mimics the one from March at all, it won’t be an effort to “examine” anything, but rather to just push Chaffetz’s agenda to please Darth Adelson. The “political kabuki” as fellow Flushdraw writer Haley Hintze called it, featured a lineup of hand-picked witnesses that represented the far right extreme anti-online gambling interests. It was just shit show that exemplified the very worst of politics.

While Wednesday could be terrible, as well, there is certainly a chance it could be a little different. One of the biggest criticisms of the witness panel in March was that there were no industry experts well-versed in regulations or with technical expertise. The inclusion of Nevada State Senator Mark Lipparelli changes that. Lipparelli is the former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board and was involved in developing the regulations for Nevada’s current online gambling industry. He has also been an executive and board member at gaming technology companies such as Shuffle Master, Bally Technologies, and Interblock. Assuming he is asked honest questions (and that’s a risky assumption), he should be able to provide useful testimony as to actual real-world applications of things like geolocation technology and speak to the effectiveness of regulations.

Assistant Director of the FBI Criminal Investigative Division Joseph Campbell could be a solid witness, though Chaffetz will almost certainly try to get him to say that online gambling supports terrorism. If he isn’t a Chaffetz plant or doesn’t fall for potentially leading questions, he could provide a good, neutral evaluation of illegal and legal online gambling.

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is staunchly in the anti-online gambling camp, as he is one of the authors of the current pro-RAWA petition circulating amongst state Attorneys General.

The fourth witness is Douglas County (Nebraska) Attorney Donald Kleine. We don’t know much about his relationship with online gambling, but considering the other three witnesses don’t skew completely into the pro-RAWA camp, there is a good chance he sides with Chaffetz. Considering his position, he will likely talk about how difficult it is to police and prosecute online criminals from other countries.

The hearing will begin at 1:00pm ET Wednesday


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