Tuesday, December 8, 2015

RAWA Hearing, Part II - Same Old Shit in a New Box

Tomorrow Sheldon Adelson gets to unwrap an early Christmas present courtesy of Congressman Jason Chaffetz (R-Grumpy): The second hearing on his RAWA bill HR707 (aka Restore America’s Wire Act, or Restore Adelson’s Wampum Act, depending on your view).  As there’s lots of similarities between this hearing and the one held last Spring.

For one thing, the witnesses scheduled to give testimony once again fail to include anyone remotely connected to the very industry Chaffetz wishes to interrogate investigate.  And it’s slanted toward the “gambling is bad” side.  Another similarity – despite the idea of holding a hearing being a key step in a move to actually get the bill passed, there is NO mention of it on Adeslon’s CSIG’s site.  It’s almost as if they don’t want their own supporters to know about it.  To his credit, Chaffetz’s Facebook page has a mention (he didn’t do that last time).  That’s the only credit Jason gets from me.

The cast of characters this time is a bit different – the March hearing was before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations This one is in front of a larger crowd – the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  The theme is different, too, with the not-so-subtle title of this hearing being “A CASINO IN EVERY SMARTPHONE – LAW ENFORCEMENT IMPLICATIONS.”  And the witnesses are more law-and-order types – from the FBI, an Attorney General (one of the 8 who signed the letter supporting RAWA), a State Senator from Nevada (the one guy who might be on our side), and the attorney from Douglas County, Nebraska.

Let’s examine this last one first.  Donald Kleine has been the Attorney for Douglas County since 2007 (Douglas County is the most populous county in Nebraska – Omaha is the county seat).  He’s a Democrat (but a Midwestern one, so he’s no screaming liberal).  But why is he testifying? 

For one thing, his election campaign website calls him “tough on crime.”  For another thing, he knows the Abbouds.  According to this website, at one time he was part of Abboud Law.  Or did something with them, it’s not clear.  We’re talking Greg and Chris Abboud.  Brothers of Andy.  Andy of “Sheldon Adelson’s right-hand man.”

So there’s THAT connection.

As for his written testimony, he’s been taught well.  He uses a lot of the CSIG buzzwords (“the challenges of local law enforcement in protecting our most vulnerable citizen from the dangers that lurk in the realm of online gambling”) and conflagulates the idea of legal and regulated online gaming with the nefarious off-shore stuff (run by “massive foreign companies”).”  The big stinker (to me) was this: “Finally, online gambling activities are extremely difficult to monitor because users can remain largely anonymous.”  This would come as a shock to anyone who signed up in New Jersey and surrendered their name, address, social security number, etc. etc. etc. 

Anonymous my ass.

Alan Wilson is the Attorney General for South Carolina, one of the strictest states (next to Utah) when it comes to gambling.  Sure, they have a lottery and some charitable bingo, but that’s it.  It wasn’t always that way – for nearly twenty years SC was the largest video poker community in the country (more than 33,000 machines) until operations were shut down in late 1999.  Wilson’s written testimony also has many classic CSIG catchphrases – Founding Fathers, States Rights (no, really), FBI warnings, and so on.  He talks about how “In South Carolina, gambling is largely prohibited and has been throughout the history of our state” (emphasis mine) and one wonders where Wilson was from 1980 to 1999 when there was a video poker machine on every corner.

He gets there, eventually, calling the experience “traumatic.”  He then gets to pull in the anecdotal stories about Mom’s leaving their kids in the car to die while they played video poker, and other fun stuff (addictions, embezzlements, and organized crime).  From there it’s a quick step to the 2011 DOJ ruling and how that opens the door to “…entities, many of which are foreign-national corporations, to operate online casinos in states like Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey without any assurance that these online casinos are not being accessed in states like South Carolina.”  That’s whopper #1.

Whopper #2 comes next: “…the reality is offices like mine, charged with the responsibilities of enforcing our own gambling laws and protecting the public, cannot  be expected to rely on the good faith of massive foreign owned gambling companies licensed by other states.”  I kinda thought technology was in play rather than “good faith” but what do I know?  And I had no idea that all of the entities in NJ, NV, and DE were “massive foreign-owned gambling companies.”  And he closes with the killer: “As a result of the DOJ opinion…it is almost impossible for parents to protect their children from accessing virtual casino games on their smartphones, tablets and laptops. Now, casinos are almost ubiquitous on every street corner in America as the virtual clouds and mobile devices operate anywhere at every hour of the day.”

Hey, Mr. Wilson!  If it’s that easy to do – access one of these legal gaming sites from your office in South Carolina – PROVE IT.  TRY IT.  And once you’ve failed, STFU.

As for Joseph Campbell, the Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division of the FBI – I haven’t found any links to him and online gaming.  I do know he’s done work dealing with “vulnerable children” and “human trafficking” but nothing on poker and clicking your mouse/lose your house activity.

Finally, there is Mark Lipparelli, State Senator from Nevada.  Prior to this position, he was Gaming Control Board Chairman to the Nevada Gaming Commission.  He was part of the process that led to Nevada going online, he’s worked for a firm involved with the customer verification process for online gaming, and he’s been a strong advocate for online poker ALL ACROSS AMERICA.  Finally, someone who ACTUALLY KNOWS SOMETHING ABOUT THE THING CHAFFETZ WANTS TO ELIMINATE REGULATE EXAMINE.

I’m sure tomorrow’s hearing will be both fair and balanced.  Hah – I’ll have a follow-up post in a day or two.

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