House Oversight & Government Reform Committee Targets December

Online Gambling, RAWA On Tap For December Congressional Hearing

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A Congressional hearing about online gambling and a potential ban via the Restoration of America’s Wire Act appears to be coming before the end of the year.

What we know about the RAWA hearing

The news of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee planning to look at iGaming again came via the Poker Players Alliance on Twitter:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) — the sponsor of RAWA (HR 707) — chairs the committee. The news comes about a week after a press conference was held to discuss and promote RAWA.

Last month, the PPA had reported that such a hearing did not appear likely in 2015.

A new hearing, but can RAWA go anywhere?

There has been little sense over the past year that there is an appetite for an online gambling ban via RAWA in Congress. The bill does have 24 co-sponsors, but there’s not much reason to believe that the bill could be passed by both houses of Congress and then signed by the president.

But another hearing will provide another chance for temperature-taking on the willingness of legislators to impose an online gambling ban. The possibility of a “moratorium” on online gambling that would leave in place iGaming regulation that already exists might also be on the table.

Also of note: Florida Senator Marco Rubio — a sponsor of RAWA in the Senate — is gaining momentum in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. He recently stated that he might be in favor of online poker exemption in the bill. Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson — the driving force behind RAWA — is not terribly interested in such a carveout, however.

Daily fantasy sports exemption remains

Despite the fact that the bill claims to stop online gambling, about the only forms of gambling it would actually impact are online poker and casino games, which are currently only offered in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. RAWA specifically carves out a number of types of iGaming, such as online lottery and horse race wagering.

Perhaps the most curious carveout is daily fantasy sports. The industry bases its legality on being a “game of skill” in most jurisdictions, and the DFS industry continues to stay out of the crosshairs of RAWA. That’s despite increased governmental scrutiny of the industry, and a number of government officials and lawmakers calling DFS a form of gambling, including some members of Congress.

Logically, it follows that Adelson likely doesn’t see the DFS industry as a threat to the brick-and-mortar casino business.

In Nevada, DFS was recently declared to be a form of gambling under state law. Operators are now required to apply for a license if they want to offer DFS contests in the state.

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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