Regulation

Conservatives Push Back Against Sheldon Adelson

Well, it looks like we’re finally getting a breath of fresh air from the GOP. Republican conservatives have started to push back against Sheldon Adelson’s attempt to introduce a piece of legislation that would have banned US online betting at the federal level. The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) scheduled for a hearing in December was suddenly called off in the face of growing conservative opposition.

The Daily Caller reported yesterday that a House hearing on the bill (which was drafted by a Las Vegas Sands lobbyist) was supposed to be held at some point in early December. A growing number of conservative Republicans came out against the bill and managed to have the hearing scrapped. This is excellent news for proponents of states’ rights and online gambling.

For a little background information, Sheldon Adelson is a casino owner, billionaire and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. His fortune is derived from brick-and-mortar gambling but he claims to have a strong moral opposition to online gambling. He’s worried about “the children,” the dangers of gambling addiction and even terrorism, you see.

None of those concerns ever stopped him from running his brick-and-mortar empire because that’s completely different. Apparently the patrons of his establishments don’t have children at home and crime isn’t a concern in the real world of gambling. Oh yes, everything is surely on the up-and-up in Mr. Adelson’s casinos. His casinos most definitely don’t look the other way when cartels need to launder a little cash.

As we wrote a couple weeks back, a number of lawmakers led by Americans for Tax Reform have taken a strong stance against Adelson’s attempts to throw hundreds of millions of dollar at GOP causes in return for promises to ban online gambling at the federal level. This was to be accomplished with the passage of RAWA.

If passed, RAWA would have prohibited states from legalizing and regulating online gambling. The three states that already have some form of online poker or online casinos (New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware) would have had to shut down sites already operating in those states legally.

The issue was frustrating for many of us because it would have trampled over states’ rights, bloated the federal government’s power even further and looked to prevent normal Americans from exercising the freedom to spend their money how they wish.

This move was especially irritating considering that it comes from a partnership between the party that supposedly represents individual liberty and a man who has made billions off gambling yet suddenly develops an aversion to online gambling. The hypocrisy and cronyism are just in-your-face blatant.

Former congressman Ron Paul penned an op-ed on November 17th that put it very well. I know Ron Paul can be a bit out there sometimes, but he smashed this editorial out of the park (except I’m not sure what Adelson’s beliefs on war have to do with gambling, but I digress). Emphasis mine:

“Most Americans, regardless of ideology, oppose ‘crony capitalism’ or ‘cronyism.’ Cronyism is where politicians write laws aimed at helping their favored business beneficiaries. Despite public opposition to cronyism, politicians still seek to use the legislative process to help special interests.

For example, Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling. 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.”

The battle is far from over, but I sure hope this recent republican opposition is the start of a new trend. No matter what your party affiliation, I’m sure you can agree that having lobbyists draft legislation and effectively give the power of shaping an entire nation’s laws to one billionaire for the sake of furthering his interests is a bad thing.

Adelson still has a lot of money and has pledged to spend “as much as it takes” to get a federal prohibition of online gambling. He has also pledged to spend millions more to get his choice of politician elected President in 2016. He still holds a fat purse and Presidential hopefuls will continue to court him in the future unless we see a major and long term pushback against his attempts to peddle donations in return for political favors.

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