Sheldon Adelson

Sheldon Adelson Back to Work Trying to Buy D.C.

We were warned. We were warned. There was some fear that Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson’s anti-online gambling bill, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), would be added to the must-pass omnibus spending bill before Congress adjourned in December. Fortunately, nothing happened with it, so we were all spared more of Adelson’s bullshit for a little while. But we were warned that it wasn’t over, that Adelson and his cronies would be back in 2015 for another run at poker. And now he is back. We were warned.

According to TownHall.com, Sheldon Adelson, who donated more than $90 million to Republican efforts last year and much, much, more than that during the last U.S. presidential campaign, was recently on Capitol Hill meeting privately with the Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee. While the reason for meeting was only described by TownHall’s sources as “a strategy session and an update for the gambling mogul,” it is assumed that it was about his next move in his crusade against online gaming.

The Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee are:

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (Virginia)
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wisconsin)
Rep. Lamar Smith (Texas)
Rep. Steve Chabot (Ohio)
Rep. Darrell Issa (California)
Rep. Randy Forbes (Virginia)
Rep. Steve King (Iowa)
Rep. Trent Franks (Arizona)
Rep. Louie Gohmert (Texas)
Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio)
Rep. Ted Poe (Texas)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah)
Rep. Tom Marino (Pennsylvania)
Rep. Trey Gowdy (South Carolina)
Rep. Raul Labrador (Idaho)
Rep. Blake Farenthold (Texas)
Rep. Doug Collins (Georgia)
Rep. Ron DeSantis (Florida)
Rep. Mimi Walters (California)
Rep. Ken Buck (Colorado)
Rep. John Ratcliffe (Texas)
Rep. Dave Trott (Michigan)
Rep. Mike Bishop

In October 2014, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) put out a list of political candidates that it called “The Jokers,” those people who have actively worked against the interests of poker players. A number of members of the above committee were on that list, including Forbes, Gohmert, Gowdy, King, Jordan, Smith, and Franks. Then there is Rep. Chaffetz, who was the one to do the bidding of Adelson and introduce RAWA into the House last year.

As a quick review, the goal of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act is to revert the interpretation of the Wire Act of 1961 to an outdated, incorrect version that unfortunately was the standard until around Christmas 2011. It was at that point that the U.S. Department of Justice clarified the Wire Act, saying that it only outlawed online sports betting, not other forms of online gambling, like poker. The Wire Act was originally enacted to thwart organized crime and make sports betting over communications lines illegal, but for whatever reason, when internet gambling rose to prominence, it was interpreted to not only include internet sports betting, but all forms of online gambling. The 2011 DoJ clarification set things to how the law was actually written, opening the door for legalization of online gambling in individual states.

One of the other consequences of the DoJ clarification is that it got Sheldon Adelson super pissed, so he committed himself to doing “whatever it takes” to stop online gambling. His never-ending faucet of money is certainly involved, but so is his development of RAWA and the creation of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

The TownHall.com article made the interesting point that although Adelson has no problems stuffing millions of dollars into Republican g-strings, “The effort has also created the awkward situation, where conservatives and libertarians—often the beneficiaries of the $100 million Adelson has contributed to GOP candidates and campaigns—have to tell the man that they cannot outlaw his online competition, even if it is the only thing he ever asked them to do for him.”

That “awkwardness” takes three forms, writes the articles author, Neil McCabe. First, there are those who just don’t like that Adelson wants to buy their support. Second, there are those who have no problem with internet gambling and won’t pretend they do just for money. And third, there are “others [who] are part of the growing neo-federalism movement that seeks to devolve authority and control out of Washington back to the states and the people.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte Image credit: congress.gov

Rep. Bob Goodlatte
Image credit: congress.gov

Another interesting twist in this story is a person who falls into that third group, House Judiciary Committee Chairman, Bob Goodlatte. Goodlatte has been on poker players’ shit list since 2006, as he was one of the leaders behind the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which made it illegal for financial institutions to facilitate the flow of funds to and from online gaming sites. Though some major sites, such as PokerStars, kept offering games to people in the U.S., the UIGEA forced many to get out of the U.S. market and, over time, has made it much more difficult to make deposits on poker sites, and, more importantly, cash out.

According to the article, even though Goodlatte is against online gambling, he was not willing to hold a hearing for RAWA during the lame duck session because he is a firm believer in the 10th Amendment, which 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.”

He sees RAWA as an “assault” on the 10th Amendment “for it 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.”

Of course, Goodlatte’s feeling about the 10th Amendment are not about to stop Sheldon Adelson from trying to bulldoze his way through Congress. His recent meeting with the Republican members of Goodlatte’s committee is likely just the beginning of his efforts in 2015.

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