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American Conservative Union Officially Against RAWA

Last week, United States Representative Jason Chaffetz (R – Utah) reintroduced the Sheldon Adelson-backed Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill (RAWA) in the House of Representatives, signaling the official start of round-whatever-it-is-now in the fight for online poker in the U.S. Opinions on internet gambling in Congress tend to split down party lines with Republicans against it and Democrats for it, but fortunately for those of us in the pro-poker camp, more and more conservative groups keep coming out against RAWA. The latest: the American Conservative Union (ACU).

The ACU, as its name might indicate, trumpets ultra-conservative points of view. In the organization’s own words:

For more than forty years, ACU has served as an umbrella organization harnessing the collective strength of conservative organizations fighting for Americans who are concerned with liberty, personal responsibility, traditional values, and strong national defense. As America’s premier conservative voice, ACU is the leading entity in providing conservative positions on issues to Congress, the Executive Branch, State Legislatures, the media, political candidates, and the public.

It is certainly not an organization that one would typically associate with being pro-gambling. The ACU hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which has a lineup of speakers which those of a liberal bent would consider a who’s-who of the unenlightened: Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, and Dr. Ben Carson, to name a few. Again, not the type of people whose mindsets those at the other end of the political spectrum would expect to have progressed into the 21st century. Not the pro-poker crowd.

And the thing is, the American Conservative Union is not actually pro-poker. What it is for is states’ rights. The ACU believes online gambling should be the domain of the individual states, not the federal government. In a statement, ACU Executive Director Dan Schneider wrote:

Jason Chaffetz is a good conservative with an American Conservative Union lifetime rating of 94 percent. However, we are disappointed that on this issue he is taking the side of big government. Conservatives don’t have to agree on the value of gambling, but we should agree that it is unwise to use the brute force of the federal government to try to stop states from making their own decisions on this activity, especially if the reason for this action is to support gambling entrepreneurs in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for them, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas; it should be up to the states to determine if they want to reject or accept Vegas.

He added, “The federal government does have a role in legitimate law enforcement matters, but it should not take on the added responsibility of overriding a state’s inherent police powers,” pointing out that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) allowed states to make their own decisions with regards to online gambling.

Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO and the driving force behind RAWA is one of the biggest donors to Republican political candidates in the country, giving more than $90 million to Republican political campaigns last year. As such, we might normally expect the ACU to snap-call when it comes to supporting RAWA. But it is increasingly looking like this is not going to be the case.

Case in point (other than the subject of this article): according to TownHall.com, one of the key players in the passing of the UIGEA was also instrumental in not letting RAWA go anywhere during Congress’ lame duck session before the New Year. Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R – Vir.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, while having proven in the past to be a staunch enemy of online gambling, feels more strongly about the Tenth Amendment. The Amendment states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

As such, like the American Conservative Union, Rep. Goodlatte does not like that RAWA would take the online gambling decision from the states. He was unwilling to permit a hearing for RAWA during the lame duck session, believing RAWA would, “…outlaw state legalization of gambling within their borders, which strikes at the federal system of state sovereignty in all matters not specifically assigned to the national government.”

It will be interesting to see what will happen with RAWA if powerful conservative groups and politicians continue to speak out against Sheldon Adelson’s attempt to legislate away competition. Hopefully Adelson will eventually fold up his tent and go home, but considering he has said he will do “whatever it takes” to stop online gambling, he is unlikely to back down any time soon.

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