Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas casino mogul who made his $35 billion fortune through legalized gambling, has spent years seeking to outlaw internet gambling. Despite numerous setbacks over the years, Adelson may finally get his way next month by having Congress increase federal power over the states via an obscure and unrelated 1961 law.
The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), bankrolled by Adelson, seeks to extend the Federal Wire Act of 1961 to ban the “bad, addictive” practice of online gambling. Surely Adelson wouldn’t spend millions lobbying Congress to ban online gambling for moral reasons, so what’s the catch?
The original intent of the Federal Wire Act of 1961 was to prevent mobsters from using telephone and telegraph systems for organized crime, most notably for horse racing and other sports betting. The authors of the 1961 bill intended to cut down on the revenues of organized crime, not to prevent states from legalizing internet gambling, which clearly did not exist 56 years ago.
Adelson Wants To Shut Down His Competition
The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, unsurprisingly backed by Mr. Adelson himself, has spent years lobbying Congress to ban online gambling. RAWA, written by Adelson’s lobbyists, is not intended to stop online gambling entirely. Rather, its true intentions are to stop the forms of online gambling that compete with Adelson’s casinos.
Over the years, Adelson has tried several ways to promote his agenda at the federal level, including in the 113th Congress when Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced a version of the bill in the House, while Lindsey Graham introduced a companion bill in the Senate. When that failed, Adelson donated $20,000,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund, and got a bill introduced on his behalf during the 114th Congress.
After both of those attempts failed, Adelson even got Jeff Sessions to concede during his confirmation hearing for Attorney General that the nominee was “oppose[d]” to a 2011 ruling by the Department of Justice which restored oversight of online gambling back to the states. Now that the Department of Justice has yet to act on his agenda, he’s returned to the 115th Congress, determined to stop online gambling once and for all.
RAWA Is An Example Of Blatant Crony Capitalism
RAWA would impose a federal ban on forms of online gambling that directly compete with Adelson’s casino empire, while leaving other forms of online gambling—like fantasy sports—completely untouched. This a clear example of not just crony capitalism, but federal overreach that further erodes states’ rights.
If our Republican-controlled Congress passes this bill, it would immediately decimate a thriving, job-producing industry, while doing nothing to address supposed “moral” objections to gambling. It would simply shift gambling revenues from online casinos to land-based casinos, thus handsomely lining Adelson’s pockets with more cash.
Crony capitalism, in any form, is entirely antithetical to conservative principles. It’s unsurprising that over 90 percent of CPAC attendees expressed opposition to this bill, because it seeks to grow the size and scope of the federal government to the benefit of one individual. This is not just bad policy—it is a blatant abuse of political power.
Regardless of one’s individual views on the morality of gambling, conservatives should call on Congress to reject this bill, which goes against everything we are supposed to stand for. In a time when the Republican Party has strayed from its core principles, to do otherwise would be political suicide. Let’s not pull the trigger.