Opinion

Can Adelson Buy An Internet Gambling Ban Before The New Year?

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu.

Dean Chambers Freelance Writer

Would $20 million be enough to buy enough U.S. Senators to get a law passed before the New Year that will benefit your business interests? Apparently Las Vegas Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson thinks so.

He’s become a human ATM machine for the Republican Party this year, having donated $100 million to Republican causes. This includes the $20 million he pledged on September 20th of this year to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC created to elect Republican candidates to the U.S. Senate.

What does Adelson want for buying Senators and members of Congress? He wants federal legislation to ban state-based regulated online gambling that he believes poses cutthroat competition to his brick-and-mortar casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Some states are allowing their residents to purchase state lottery tickets online or gamble at online casinos that operate within their states. This is a result of the Justice Department issuing a reasonable interpretation of the Wire Act, stating that it does not prohibit online gambling in states that choose to legalize such activity — a ruling which was consistent with the Tenth Amendment.

Last year, at the behest of Adelson, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), with the help of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) in the House, introduced a bill called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) that would overturn the Justice interpretation and clearly define the Wire Act as prohibiting online gambling in all 50 states.

Despite several attempts to advance RAWA, few members of Congress have showed any interest in helping enact the bill. Instead, RAWA has attracted grassroots opposition from a number of major groups representing the concerned citizenry.

Several attempts to earmark it into other pieces of legislation have failed. The House Judiciary Committee, chaired by staunch Tenth Amendment supporter, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), never moved RAWA in committee because it clearly violates the Tenth Amendment by trampling over states’ rights.

Failing to get a hearing there, Chaffetz then scheduled a hearing on the bill before the House Oversight Committee where he serves as Chairman, titled “A Casino in Every Smartphone – Law Enforcement Implications.”

The main argument for passage of the bill, made by Chaffetz and other RAWA supporters, is that the internet has no geographical borders, and when one state legalizes online gambling, it becomes impossible to contain access to only that state or to residents of states where online gambling is legalized.

However, experts involved in implementing the technology in the states where online gaming is legalized, testified on how they are in fact able to restrict internet users of states that prohibit online gambling from participating in online casinos. These individuals clearly laid out how users from states that don’t permit online gaming are blocked, eliminating the primary technological argument advanced in support of RAWA and leaving only the Constitutional concerns on the table.

Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) and Thomas Massie (R-KY) clearly illustrated how a federal ban on internet gambling imposed on all states violates their rights under the Tenth Amendment. Rep. Massie also raised Second Amendment concerns, pointing out that federal authority used to ban state-based internet gambling could also easily be used by Congress to ban the sales of firearms and ammunition online by gun dealers.

Both Democrats and Republicans on the House Oversight Committee voiced their strong opposition to RAWA. By the time the hearing concluded, it was clear there was little support for the legislation. While the hearing was intended to build support for RAWA, it ended up being an epic failure to advance Chaffetz’s bill.

Just one day after Adelson pledged $20 million to the Senate Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that supported Sen. Cotton as a candidate in 2014, Sen. Cotton introduced a new bill in the Senate, S.3376, that is strikingly similar to RAWA, and would likewise impose a federal ban on internet-based gambling on all states.

It’s funny how a day after Adelson pledges more money to Republican politicians, the senator he pledged the money to filed the internet gambling ban on his behalf. At a time when voters are demanding reform in government, money still buys politicians quite effectively.

The legislation is reportedly set to be inserted into a year-end spending bill in the lame-duck session within the next few weeks. Members of Congress think they can quietly slip measures like RAWA into those huge spending bills without the public noticing.

We just elected Donald Trump as president on his promise to “drain the swamp” and end this kind of cronyism and corruption. We can only hope Congress will say no to Adelson and defeat the internet gambling ban once and for all. Voters elected them to reform government and uphold our Constitutional liberties. Nothing less is expected of them.