House Judiciary Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Internet Gaming

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations held a hearing on Internet gaming yesterday. National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Chairman Ernest Stevens Jr., submitted a Statement to the Subcommittee on this important issue affecting the Indian gaming community.     

The Subcommittee focused its hearing on H.R. 707, the Restoration of America's Wire Act "RAWA," introduced by Congressman Chaffetz (R-UT). Witnesses included "Stop Predatory Gambling's" Chairman, Les Bernal and board member Michael K. Fagan, who is also a Professor at the Washington University School of Law. Also testifying were John W. Kindt, a Professor from the Illinois School of Law, Andrew Moylan, Executive Director and Senior Fellow at R Street and Parry Aftab, Executive Director, Wired Safety.

The hearing focused on the broad policy questions of whether Congress should ban Internet gaming across the country, whether any form of Internet gaming can be safely regulated and what role the state governments should play in the debate.  

NIGA Chairman Stevens provided the Subcommittee details on NIGA's position on Internet gaming. He stated that NIGA's position, developed through the years with tribal leaders, resolves that federal Internet gaming legislation must acknowledge the following principles:

  • all tribes must be acknowledged as governments with authority to regulate gaming
  • tribal government Internet gaming revenues will not be subject to taxation
  • customers may access tribal government Internet gaming sites as long as Internet gaming is legal where the customer is located
  • tribal rights under the IGRA and existing tribal-state gaming compacts must be protected
  • IGRA should not be opened up for amendments, and
  • tribal governments must receive a positive economic benefit in any federal Internet legalization proposals. 

NIGA Chairman Stevens informed the Subcommittee that NIGA opposes the RAWA in its current form due to carve outs for the horse racing industry, protection of state lottery sales over the internet and finally because it fails to protect, or even acknowledge, existing tribal-state compacts and existing wide area progressive jackpots shared between casino locations.

The Subcommittee members were fixed on two questions: the state's role in regulating gambling within their borders, and whether the technology exists to keep minors off of gambling websites, even if regulated. Others, like Congressman Goodlatte (R-Va) and Congressman Richmond (D-La), were concerned that state lotteries are not specifically exempted from RAWA, thus impacting a major revenue stream for state governments. 

NIGA will continue to monitor RAWA and the Internet gaming issue. Please join our many Internet discussions and panels at NIGA's Indian Gaming Tradeshow and Convention next week in San Diego. Please follow this link for full details: www.indiangaming.org.