US Congress Discusses Online Poker Industry

The committee called various witnesses
The committee called various witnesses

The House Oversight & Government Reform Committee didn’t vote on the bill

US.- The hearing on Capitol Hill on Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) that took place last Wednesday also included the bill that would ban regulated online poker in the US. The hearing before the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was declared a victory by the Poker Players Alliance.

The chairman of House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, Rep. John Chaffetz (R-Utah), is also the sponsor of the bill to “restore” the 1961 Wire Act because that law was re-interpreted by the US Department of Justice in December 2011 to allow for intra-state online gaming.

During the hearing, named “A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications,” the committee called various witnesses to address different issues related to how igaming might be vulnerable to criminal activity (for example money laundering) and whether current regulation, allows every smart phone user to have a virtual casino at their fingertips.

There were many anti-online gaming comments from lawmakers and diverse witnesses, but many of those witnesses failed to address any specific issues with regulated online casinos, such was the case of the first witness, Joseph Campbell, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division who stated that online gambling “can have connections to other kinds of criminal activity.”

A key witness for the industry was anti-RAWA Nevada Sen. Mark Lipparelli. The former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board said: “If you were going to try to launder money, a legal regulated site would probably be the last place that you would want to try to do that.” The Representative also stated before the committee that regulated igaming is working well in those US states that have enacted regulations and legislation, in order to prevent crimes.

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) declared that her state has been extremely successful regulating online gaming since 2013. She also explained that there has been “no increase in law enforcement challenges” compared to brick-and-mortar Atlantic City gaming.

The three-hour long hearing was closed by Chaffetz, he called RAWA “an important topic,” but no vote was held on his bill.