Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) has been named as the successor to Darrel Issa as chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, one of the most powerful committees in the House of Representatives. Worryingly for the online gambling industry, Chaffetz is also, with Senator Lindsey Graham, a sponsor of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, the Adelson backed bill that seeks to introduce a federal ban on all online gaming.
As head of the committee it will be Chaffetz’s responsibility to act as a government watchdog and interrogator and initiate investigations into government policy decisions. He will also be the only committee leader with the power to issue subpoenas without a committee vote.
One of the policies that Chaffetz has been particularly interested in investigating recently is the decision of the Obama administration to reinterpret the Wire Act, as it relates to online gambling. In 2011 the Department of Justice issued a legal opinion which stated that the 1961 bill prohibited only sports betting over the internet, and not any other form of gambling.
“To have gaming on every smartphone in the country, I just think it’s a bad idea,” Chaffetz has said. “This is just the beginning. I am afraid that if we don’t move quickly and get some decent regulations in place, which we really don’t have right now, it will be too late to stop it from reaching all the states.
“Many parents already can see how easy it is for a kid to get addicted to a video game that does not involve money. You put them on the Internet and they are gambling with money, now you have a real problem.”
Earlier this week, a tweet from Poker Players Alliance President John Pappas allayed fears that the House Judiciary Committee would hold a lame duck hearing for RAWA, as had been rumored, citing a source with knowledge of the Committee’s plans. However, there is still concern that RAWA could be attached to a larger piece of legislation, just as UIGEA was tagged onto the Safe Ports Act in 2006. Pappas has asked those in the online gambling industry to keep their eyes and ears peeled.
Determination to Push RAWA Through
“These fundamental changes need to go through Congress,” Chaffetz has said, of his determination to push the act through. “By restoring the original interpretation of the Wire Act, we are putting the genie back in the bottle and allowing for an open debate to take place…”
Chaffetz has said that as head of the committee he is committed to adopting a far more bipartisan approach than his predecessor, and is prepared to work more closely with Democrats. “I have the greatest respect and admiration for Congressman Issa, but I don’t intend to be Darrell Issa-like,” Chaffetz told The Hill recently. “How you do things matters in this body, and how we do things would be a bit different.”
However, despite this, he remains a committed conservative, who represents one of the strongest Republican strongholds in the country. Utah is also one of two states, the other being Hawaii, where all forms of gambling are prohibited, including lotteries.