Unusual Activity Surrounds Adelson Gambling Bill

Sheldon Adelson’s Restoration of America’s Wire Act—which would ban online gambling in the U.S.—will not be heard during the lame duck session of Congress, according to reports. Meanwhile, former Congressman Ron Paul (l.) and other powerful conservative groups have come out in opposition to the ban.

According to conservative website HumanEvents.com, conservatives on Capitol Hill have been told that the Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA)—which would ban all forms of online gambling—will not be heard in the House of Representatives during the lame duck session.

Officials have apparently decided that the bill was too involved to move quickly through the House Judiciary Committee and then move before the full House before a new Congress is seated.

There had been some moves to get the bill through the session—including attaching it to a larger bill—but the feeling is that there is now not enough time before the new Congress is seated.

The bill is seen as difficult for conservatives—who favor less federal authority over states’ rights—to support, but it is being pushed by billionaire and casino owner Sheldon Adelson, a major GOP political donor.

Adelson has talked about the ban in moral terms and says he wants the ban to prevent underage gambling and to prevent problem gamblers from losing huge amounts of money without protections, but critics have charged that Adelson—owner of the Las Vegas Sands—is simply trying to protect his casino interests.

Adelson has also picked up a boatload of new critics, including former Congressman Ron Paul.

Paul recently wrote an editorial for the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection—backed by MGM Resorts—in support of online gaming.

Paul called the bill “cronyism,” where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries.

“For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling.” Paul wrote. “It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.

“Supporters of an Internet gambling ban publicly deny they are motivated by a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor,” Paul wrote. “Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity. Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists. But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.”

Paul also rejected the argument that the ban would protect states that do not choose to allow online gambling. Instead, he said, it infringes on the rights of state’s that approve online gambling such as New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, which have approved online gambling within their state borders.

Paul also warned that the bill could lead to a greater policing and censorship of the internet.

In addition to Paul, a group of 10 powerful conservative groups, including anti-tax guru Grover Norquist, released a letter calling RAWA “an assault on our federalist system.”

“While RAWA supporters contend that this legislation is a simple fix to 53 year old Wire Act legislation on sports betting, RAWA attempts to apply federal sports betting regulations to online gambling—even though this legislation was created decades before the invention of the internet,” the letter went on.

“The states have always led the way in regulating gambling and that is why a diverse coalition of organizations including the Democratic Governors Association, National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures and numerous civil libertarian, free market and conservative groups have already spoken out against this legislation.”

So with no platform in the 2014 Congress, and stiff opposition from hardline conservatives and liberals alike, the prospects for RAWA aren’t good even in the next Congress, despite Adelson’s deep pockets.

Poker Players Alliance, however, cautioned vigilance.

“The expected House hearing on the Sheldon Adelson-backed legislation to ban internet gambling was called off earlier this week, but the fight is not over as there is still a very real chance this legislation could be tacked on to a non-relevant, must-pass bill at the last minute and passed into law,” said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. “According to reports, Adelson and his lobbyists aren’t only schmoozing with top Republicans but with Senator Harry Reid and we’re very concerned there could be a backroom deal brewing. Now more than ever, it is crucial that we remain vigilant to ensure political influence doesn’t win out over what’s in the best interest of consumers.”