Returning like the heartburn from a cheap frozen pizza, Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson has again renewed his personal vendetta against US-based online gambling. In the latest news involving Adelson’s profit-driven attempts to seal off the US from the modern gambling world, Adelson himself visited Washington, D.C. this week in effort to reboot a legislative push for his favored bill, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.
That bill, known as RAWA for short, was at the forefront of Adelson’s demands list as he met with a host of GOP congressmen, many of whom have already received the direct benefits of Adelson’s own political largesse.
An attempt by Adelson’s forces to push RAWA through Congress at the end of last year’s lame-duck session of Congress fell short, but that victory was only one battle in a much longer war. The billionaire Adelson’s money and determination to spend “whatever it takes” to fight against online gambling remains an ongoing concern to the US’s nascent online-gambling industry.
In the latest developments, the 81-year-old Adelson himself ventured to Washington, where he met with several Republican members of the House’s Judiciary Committee to discuss RAWA’s possible future and the prospects of online-gambling legislation — pro or con — in general.
The Judiciary Committee is an important launching point for federal legislation and includes among its members several conservative Representatives who have already committed themselves in support of Adelson’s efforts. The committee is chaired by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), a longtime anti-online gambling activist who played a primary role in the advancement and passage of the 2006 UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), working in concert with Sen. Bill Frist.
Goodlatte has long been an outspoken critic of Internet-based gambling, with the notable exception of horseracing interests, an important Virginia industry. However, Goodlatte has also been a staunch supporter of states’ rights, a concept which runs counter to RAWA’s intent and which will place Goodlatte in a key point as debate over the bill moves forward.
Another House Judiciary member of note is Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who served, along with US Senator Lindsay Graham, as a primary sponsor of the Las Vegas Sands-drafted RAWA legislation.
The committee also includes several Congressman who were included last year on a Poker Players Alliance “jokers list” naming several Representatives who have been outspoken in their opposition to US regulation of online poker. Those other representatives include Randy Forbes (VA), Trent Franks (AZ), Louie Gohmert (TX), Trey Gowdy (SC), Steve King (IA), Jim Jordan (OH) and Lamar Smith (TX).
The Judiciary Committee’s disproportionate inclusion of these anti-online gambling stalwarts makes the committee an obvious starting point for Adelson’s lobbying efforts.
The first report about Adelson’s visit to D.C., published at Townhall.com, makes it clear that Adelson doesn’t intend to let the American democratic tradition stand in the way of his profit-driven desires. According to that report, Adelson and his staffers have helped form and finance a private clique — or “rump committee” — within the larger Judiciary committee, to effect Adelson’s wishes.
Adelson and his LV Sands empire donated roughly $90 million to GOP candidates in the 2014 election cycle alone. Given other huge donations in recent years, such as the tens of millions Adelson sunk into Newt Gingrich’s failed 2012 presidential bid, Adelson’s attempt to purchase the American political system ranks as one of the deepest and most blatant efforts of all time.
The RAWA effort in particular has galled even some of those politicians who would otherwise support Adelson’s causes, and who have even received some of his donated funds. The reason: RAWA would attempt to strip states of their constitutional rights to mandate their own gambling laws, likely raising constitutional questions and touching on areas of commerce of interest to many states.
Adelson is likely to throw tens of millions of dollars more this year at politicians as he hopes to secure his “big ask,” with a re-introduction of RAWA by Chaffetz (and by similarly-funded Adelson supporter Graham in the Senate) in the months ahead. How quickly such an effort gains traction and how easily it moves forward in a battleground such as the House Judiciary Committee will determine whether RAWA is a serious threat in 2015 and beyond.
It’s for sure that Adelson and his RAWA wishes aren’t going away. US-based online gambling may never be totally outlawed, as Adelson wishes, but his efforts have also stymied the industry’s possible American growth. More of that warfare lies ahead.
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