The debate over the Restoration of America’s Wire Act—which would ban online gambling in the U.S.—is scheduled to begin March 26 with a hearing before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations.
Critics of the bill, however, are charging that the hearing won’t be a debate at all as the witness list for the hearing will be stacked with anti-online gambling opponents.
The hearing had been scheduled for March 5, but was delayed due to winter weather.
The bill was introduced by Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah, but is seen as coming from Sands Las Vegas owner Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Adelson has been personally financing a lobbying effort to ban online gambling.
The bill currently has 14 sponsors, five of which sit on the sub-committee.
According to a report from iGaming insider Chris Grove, the list of witnesses scheduled to testify includes outspoken gambling critics John Kindt, Les Bernal and Professor Mike Fagan. Internet security expert Parry Aftab is also expected to testify.
The bill hopes to reverse a ruling by the U.S. Department of Justice that the current Wire Act does not restrict states from offering intra-sate online gambling. Three states—New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware—have approved online gambling. The bill would also affect about 12 states that run online lotteries.
So far, no regulators from those states or proponents of online gambling have been announced as witnesses.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Democratic Governors Association urged House and Senate leadership to oppose the bill in a letter.
In the letter, DGA Chair Governor Steve Bullock of Montana and Vice Chair Governor Maggie Wood Hassan, of New Hampshire, said:
“We believe strongly that the issue of Internet gaming, as has historically been the case with other forms of gaming, is best left to the states to decide and regulate. This approach is consistent with the congressional intent related to online gaming as stated in the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006,” decades after the Wire Act was enacted.”
The association warned that the bill would trample on states who currently have safe and regulated online gaming programs and lotteries in place, but also make for an unsafe, unregulated online environment and push players to dangerous black-market sites.