Hearings on “Restore America’s Wire Act” a Disaster for Chaffetz, Adelson
The House of Representatives Oversight Committee hearing today was a disaster for those who want to ban online gambling. The hearings, called “A Casino in Every Smartphone: Law Enforcement Implications“, took place before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is chaired by the man who introduced the RAWA bill to the House, Jason Chaffetz. Rep. Chaffetz used his chairman status to call three witnesses who supported his stance, so only one person who testified (Mark Lipparelli) gave contradictory information. Still, “A Casino in Every Smartphone” saw the supporters of RAWA routed.
The reason for the rout was the response from representatives on both sides of the aisle. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers were hostile to the idea of a ban of online gambling instituted at the federal level. Also, several of those legislators seemed to be better informed on Chaffetz’s bill than the representative himself. The arguments went against Chaffetz so strongly that, after a break in the meeting, he chose to let someone else chair the second half of the meetings.
Chaffetz’s Opening Statement
As the meeting began, Jason Chaffetz repeated many of the same phrases he has used since he first introduced Restore America’s Wire Act to the US Congress in March 2014. As the name of the hearing implies, the Oversight Committee chairman argued that legal and licensed online gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware opens the door to mobile and online gambling throughout the United States, including the 47 states which ban the practice at the moment.
In a 10-minute opening speech, Rep. Chaffetz said, “Now, anything connected to the Internet — desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, no matter your age — is becoming a casino. I’ve got a problem with that. I think the American people have a problem with that.”
Ted Lieu Points out GPS Works
The main problem with that line of argument is it simply is not factual. Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat from California, had the most effective argument against Chaffetz’s assertions. Using a working knowledge of GPS technology and everyday common sense, Ted Lieu pointed out what most Americans understand — GPS systems are very good at pinpointing where a mobile device is at.
In reply to the testimony of Alan M. Wilson (AG of South Carolina) and Joseph S. Campbell (FBI’s CID), Representative Lieu said, “I have no doubt that you believe in your testimony, but I do have to point out that parts of your testimony are simply wrong. The notion that you can’t pinpoint location is simply incorrect. Look at the GPS on your smartphone. It will tell you where you are relatively accurately.”
Mark Lipparelli Adds Technical Knowledge
Mark Lipparelli, a former member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board and a current Nevada State Senator, provided the technical know-how to drive home Lieu’s point. Lipparelli, who was one of four witnesses called to testify, described how security software firms have perfected the technology to block those trying to gamble illegally on the regulated poker sites and online casinos.
In his authoritative opening statement, Mark Lipparelli said, “We know there have been many attempts to compromise (regulated Internet gambling) systems. But those issues are being revealed, thwarted, evaluated and, where warranted, new standards are implemented.”
Thomas Massie Cites State’s Rights
Rep. Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, spoke out against the anti-online gambling ban, due to concern about state’s rights issues. At one dramatic point, Rep. Massie asked whether the passage of RAWA would set a precedent in which the US federal government could pass sweeping gun control legislation. The obvious answer, which no one dare give, was “Yes”. A senator from Thomas Massie’s state, Rand Paul, also has come out against RAWA, for the very same reasons: it cedes to Washington DC powers long reserved for the individual states.
Mick Mulvaney and Jody Hice, Republicans from South Carolina and Georgia, respectively, also expressed concerns with state’s rights. They represent a hard core of conservative thought against RAWA. In the end, the Republicans who refuse to vote for such a bill are likely to be the reason Sheldon Adelson will not get his way on this issue.
Stacey Plaskett Cites UIGEA against Chaffetz
Rep. Stacey Plaskett, a Democrat who represents the Virgin Islands, drove home that point by reading select portions of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act which gives states the right to regulate online casinos and poker rooms for themselves.
Later, Plaskett corrected Jason Chaffetz on one of his key contentions: that the US Department of Justice had changed the gaming laws in 2011 in a “middle of the night” decision. Stacey Plaskett served at the Justice Department, working directly under Larry Thompson and James Comey, so she spoke from experience when she said, “The idea that this was drafted and written and signed in the middle of the night to me is a stretch of my imagination, knowing the inner workings of the Justice Department and knowing how long it takes for an opinion to come out.”
Alan Wilson Testifies
Alan Wilson spoke as the Attorney General of South Carolina, a state concerned that it might not be able to enforce its ban on online gambling. South Carolina’s Senator Lindsey Graham introduced RAWA legislation in the US Senate, claiming that licensed online gambling in New Jersey would allow South Carolinans to gamble on their mobile phones. Alan Wilson made the same assertion, only to have those charges contradicted several times by Mark Lipperelli, as well as several congressmen.
Donald Kleine Cross-Examined by Buddy Carter
Donald Kleine, an attorney from Douglas County, Nebraska, also provided testimony to support Chaffetz’s position. Kleine had the biggest gaff of the day when he contradicted his own position on RAWA, not seeming to understand he was arguing against himself (and the gaming ban).
Rep. Buddy Carter, a Republican from Georgia, pointed out that his state has plans to legalize interstate online lottery sales and asked whether RAWA would ban such online gaming. Donald Kleine responded, “I don’t have a problem if Georgia has a lottery and they run it intrastate and they regulate it intrastate.”
Kleine did not seem to understand RAWA would most definitely ban interstate lottery ticket sales over the Internet.
Jason Chaffetz Passes the Gavel
The proceedings were so disastrous that it appears Jason Chaffetz decided he did not want to be associated too closely with them. After a break in the testimony, Chaffetz chose to no longer be the chairman for the meeting. He made one more remark throughout the session, which was a reiteration of an earlier point.
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