Winter Storm Forces Postponement of RAWA Hearing

CongressA congressional subcommittee was supposed to meet Thursday morning to discuss  RAWA, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and widely believed to have been written by Sheldon Adelson and his lobbyists.

As both sides ginned up their supporters in preparation for the hearing Mother Nature decided to throw a wrench in their plans. With a winter storm bearing down on DC the RAWA hearing was cancelled on Tuesday evening.

It should be noted that some have suggested the hearing may have been postponed due to the blowback over RAWA, and the stacked deck of witnesses that were rumored to appear.

The cancellation was unofficially announced while the tentative witness list, first reported by Online Poker Report’s Chris Grove, was being discussed and critiqued.

The list of witnesses included:

  • Professor John Kindt, a Professor of Business and Legal Policy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a self-credited contributor to UIGEA legislation in 2006.
  • Les Bernal, National Director, Stop Predatory Gambling
  • Professor Mike Fagan, a former Department of Justice prosecutor, and current Washington University – St. Louis Law School
  • Parry Aftab, an attorney specializing in Internet Privacy and Security and founder of WiredSafety, and a former Board member of the short-lived online gaming lobby group FairPlay USA

Fair and Balanced? Hardly

Aside from Aftab, the list of witnesses list is full of what appear to be hand-picked Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) speakers – some with questionable track records.

Perhaps the delay will see a more balanced witness list? After all, if Sheldon Adelson, Jason Chaffetz and others want to legitimize their arguments against online gambling (and end the crony capitalism catcalls) a good place to start would be by having a fair debate.

For the RAWA hearing to have any credibility it will need to expand its current list of witnesses.

Absent from the list is anyone with a role in one of the U.S.’s three regulated markets. No one from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement or Nevada Gaming Control Board was asked to appear, nor were any of the operators.

Also missing are representatives from the very companies Sheldon Adelson and RAWA supporters dismiss, such as player verification companies like CAMS and geolocation companies like GeoComply. Will the pro-RAWA speakers at the hearing simply bash these companies as ineffective without allowing them to explain and/or demonstrate their products?

Finally, why wasn’t Michelle Minton asked to appear? Minton, from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, wrote a highly regarded academic paper for the UNLV Center for Gaming research explaining the original intent of the 1961 Wire Act. Since RAWA is purportedly seeking to restore the Wire Act, Minton would seem like an obvious witness to call.

The controversial Professor Kindt

Not only should the witness list include more expert witnesses, but if they had an ounce of sense they would scratch Professor Kindt from the witness list altogether.

Kindt is a controversial figure, even among his fellow gambling researchers, and has some “interesting” ideas on how the government could rid itself of the scourge of gambling.

Kindt has heaped praise on Vladimir Putin’s Russia, saying, “Russian President Vladimir Putin sanguinely noted the economic and crime costs of state-sanctioned gambling and recriminalized 2,230 casinos … What do the Russian economists know that is still eluding Washington politicians?”

Kindt also sees Chechen President (and Human Rights Watch violator) Ramazan Kadyrov as a good model on how to deal with gambling, saying, ” Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov confirmed “the gambling business is a threat to national security”. So, they get it.”

Much of Kindt’s research has long been debunked by peers, (here and here as well) but the Professor continues to cite and misrepresent his, and others, research to this day.

If it should come to pass, Kindt’s appearance in front of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, will only further expose RAWA advocates as having ulterior motives.

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