Who wants to ban Internet gaming?

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that “Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz is preparing to introduce a bill that would restore the pre-2011 federal ban on Internet gaming, a spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday. It would join a similar bill to be sponsored in the Senate by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.”

“The goals of the Graham-Chaffetz legislation,” the Review-Journal continues, “are consistent with the highly publicized campaign by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson to outlaw Internet gambling on moral grounds.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the file properties of the House bill — virtually identical to Graham’s Senate bill — indicate that it was written by Darryl Nirenberg, who reportedly now lobbies for Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

There’s also this: The draft of the Senate bill (available here) contains a carve-out for horse racing, which opponents see as a sop for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. (According to the draft bill, “The term ‘bet or wager’ does not include any activities set forth in section 5362(1)(E) of title 31, or any activities permitted under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 (15 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.)”)

Meanwhile, the Online Poker Report (such a thing exists) recently observed the curious fact that Sen. Graham has shown very little interest in the issue … until now. Their post goes on to speculate that his sudden support for this might have something to do with the fact that he is up for re-election this year.

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So what are we to make of this? To be sure, there are legitimate federalism arguments to be made for why this should be opposed, and there are revenue arguments to be made, as well (opponents of the measure say the language in the bill would effectively ban every state lottery in the nation).

For some conservatives, these would be compelling arguments. But as far as I’m concerned, the lottery is a regressive tax on the poor and the stupid. So I’m not going to lose any sleep over that aspect of this debate.

But what I do find disturbing is that the people ostensibly trying to shut down online gambling for noble reasons are really just interested in protecting their brick-and-mortar gambling interests. What is more, inclusion of carve-outs for certain gambling interests seems a transparent example of what people hate about politics.

It’s hard to tell whether or not this is a wise policy when the politics of it stinks so bad.