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Online Gambling Forces Triumph in RAWA Hearing

Online gambling supporters shredded their critics yesterday in a Congressional hearing that was designed to smear the entire industry.

The hearing titled, A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications, was held by the House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in an effort to boost support for the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). If passed into law, RAWA would ban all forms of online gambling in the United States, whether individual states support it or not.

Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) is the man behind RAWA and, coincidentally, is a major beneficiary of campaign contributions from billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is one of the most vocal opponents against online gambling in the US.

Chaffetz set the tone for the hearing with a sneering, and fact-free, dissection of the industry’s use of geo-location technology saying:

For anybody to argue that the Internet can be walled off and used in just these certain boundaries, it’s a joke. Nobody with a straight face is going to come before the American people and say, ‘Well, the Internet, it’s just for the people of Nevada,’ or ‘It’s just for the people of Rhode Island.’ You kidding me?

This rather specious argument was promptly shredded by every witness who testified at the hearing, including Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) who told Committee members:

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.

By the end of the hearing it was clear that Chaffetz’s arguments weren’t holding water and the usually mouthy politician seemed cowed and silent.

Regardless of how well Wednesday’s hearing went, it’s unlikely that RAWA will ever be passed into law by a Congress that is one of the most unproductive in US history.