Hearing Highlighted Bipartisan Opposition to RAWA Federal Online Gambling Ban

RAWA hearing proves to be a complete failure for Jason Chaffetz RAWA hearing proves to be a complete failure for Jason Chaffetz[/caption] Today’s hearing before the House Oversight Committee showed strong bipartisan support for allowing states to legalize and regulate within their borders in-state online gambling and opposition to the federal ban proposed by the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). During the hearing, titled “A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications,” members of Congress from both parties, as well as the witnesses called to the committee by Chaffetz, made a strong case against the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), proposed by Rep. Chaffetz. RAWA is strongly backed by Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who views online gaming as a threat to his brick-and-mortar casinos, who has donated to the campaigns of Chaffetz and other Washington politicians who support enacting the federal online gambling ban. The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) quickly highlighted this issues, in his comments, stating about the hearing, “it’s all about money” and add that, “if we outlaw online gambling, the bricks and mortar (gambling) people would make more money.” The strongest case for the idea that states can legalize and regulate in-state online gambling without violating the rights of other states, that may choose to prohibit it, was made by former New Jersey General Assembly member and Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), who voted in favor of in-state online gambling in New Jersey as a state legislator. The evidence clearly demonstrates, with proper regulation, in-state online gambling poses no more challenges to law enforcement or risk to consumers than brick-and-mortar casinos,” Watson Coleman stated, “According to the Department of Justice, in-state online non sports gambling is not prohibited by the Wire Act or other federal gambling laws, so states may regulate online gambling within their own borders.” Rep. Ted Lieu addressed the issue of technology enabling states to legalize and regulate online gambling without imposing it on other states that choose to prohibit, saying there is “no basis in reality” for the claims that such technology doesn’t exist. Lieu showed the committee a video profiling geolocation technology from GeoComply that allows the locations of users to be determined by servers hosting online gambling sites. Several Republicans also made it clear they oppose a federal ban on internet-based gambling as well. Questioning on the issue centered around state authority under the Tenth Amendment, technology allowing states to legalize and regulate online gambling without it being available in states where it’s prohibited, as well as issues related to gun rights that are raised by giving the federal government the authority to ban gambling online. Raising the issue of gun rights, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) asked if the same logic behind RAWA, that it’s hard to enforce laws against gambling in one state if another state allows it, could also be used to restrict gun rights because if one states allows firearms and ammunition to be sold online, residents of states that ban that would supposedly be able to order them online from venders located in that state. It’s hard to enforce gun control laws in one state, so we have to have a universal ban,” Massie argued would be the basis for extending the logic behind RAWA to legislating federally on gun control issues. South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson testified in support of RAWA, stating, “It is not a violation of the Tenth Amendment when Congress has the authority to regulate online gambling under the Commerce Clause,” Wilson told the committee, “removal of the online gambling provision of the Wire Act (by the OLC) has eroded the states ability to prohibit or regulate, however they want, gambling in their states.” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) strongly refuted this point of view, arguing that if the technology exists to allow some states to legalize and regulate themselves online gambling in such a way that residents of states that prohibit, can be prevented from accessing it from those other states, that the federal government has no basis under the Commerce Clause to prohibit or regulate online gambling within the borders of individual states. The availability of technology, cited by former Nevada state gaming board member Mark Lipparelli earlier before the committee, that allows online gambling sites to identify users and only allow those who are from the states where online gambling is legal and regulated, addresses any concerns about online gambling spreading to states that prohibit it within their borders. Mulvaney pointed out that states will lose their ability to legalize and regulate in-state online gambling if RAWA is enacted, and asked Wilson, “Isn’t there perhaps another way to prevent kids in South Carolina from accessing legal gambling sites New Jersey, Nevada, or Delaware other than federal regulation?” Mulvaney also highlighted how the basis for banning internet-based gambling via RAWA could also be used to restrict Second Amendment rights to purchase firearms and ammunition, arguing, “That’s what I”m worried about, that we’re going go through regulation and expand the role of the federal government as opposed to limit it.” By the end of the hearing, it was clear most of the members, from both political parties, were strongly opposed to interfering with state authority over gambling by passing RAWA. The bill has little grass roots support, while many conservative and liberty-oriented groups support it, and appears to have little more support on Capitol Hill despite the best efforts of Sheldon Adelson to get more Washington politicians on his side.  ]]>

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