Could Sheldon Adelson Get Internet Gambling Banned By Year’s End?

Posted on November 28, 2016

[toc]Proponents of online poker and gambling are always wary when Sands Corporation CEO Sheldon Adelson’s name gets invoked.

Now, even those not too familiar with the world of online gambling are raising an eyebrow about what Adelson might persuade politicians to do before the end of 2016.

Reports from both Right Side News and The Hill suggest something similar to the Adelson-backed Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill could be piggybacked on to must-move legislation in December.

The plan sounds similar to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006 as part of the Safe Port Act.

Anti-online gambling bill compensation for big political spending?

Adelson is known to throw a lot of lobbying money around to thwart online gambling in the United States.

As the presidential election heated up, reports Adelson donated $25 million to an anti-Hillary Clinton super PAC surfaced. Some are speculating the big donation will be rewarded with legislative action during the lame-duck session of Congress.

Adelson’s allies include Republican Senators Trent Lott, Mitch McConnell, and Lindsey Graham as well as Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz.

After these Republicans tried to push RAWA through, Adelson began donating large sums to groups out to defeat Clinton. Adelson and his wife donated $10 million to a similar super PAC in September.

President-elect Trump would not be involved

Just because President-elect Donald Trump said he would not take money from interest groups during his campaign does not mean this legislation will not happen. If passed during the lame-duck session, Trump would have no recourse to stop it before he takes office in January.

Trump requested Republicans defer passing long-term spending legislation until he takes office. House Speaker Paul Ryan supports the request, but a stopgap spending bill will need to pass in the interim.

Not all Republicans may be on board

There are many members of Republican leadership who support Adelson’s anti-gambling stance. However, there are many others who consider RAWA and similar legislation to be a violation of the Tenth Amendment.

The Independent Journal Review noted many groups like the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and various state government officials have expressed displeasure with the measure.

Should RAWA or something like it pass, it would likely result in a steep decline in state revenues. States like Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, where online poker and casinos are legal, would obviously be affected. Other states stand to lose revenue too.

The state of Georgia voiced concerns the law would impact its state lottery, which sells tickets online.

Even those not interested in online gambling specifically are concerned about the precedent RAWA was trying to set regarding online commerce. The Independent Review Journal and others have pointed out how the legislation opens the door for a Second Amendment debate about online ammunition sales.

What’s next?

Congress is in session in December and the stopgap spending bill will be on the agenda. The current spending agreement is valid through Dec. 9.

Typically the House and Senate adjourn for the year in the second week of December.

Should versions of the spending bill pass without RAWA-like language, that does not necessarily mean it will not end up in the final draft. UIGEA was not present in the versions of the Safe Port Act passed by the House and Senate. The law was added to a Conference Report in a subsequent vote. At that vote the reading of the report was waived.

So far it appears that any sort of anti-gambling legislation is just a rumor. The last stopgap spending bill passed by an overwhelming majority on Sept. 28, two days before the previous one expired.

Image credit: lev radin / Shutterstock.com

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman is the managing editor of PlayPennsylvania. A longtime poker media presence, Jess has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com.

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