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RAWA: Banning online gambling would be political suicide for Republicans

(AP Photo/John Locher)

Last November’s election brought a tidal wave of success for Republicans in the House, the Senate, and of course, the White House. American’s threw their support behind Republicans that promised to do away with the laws and regulations that have infringed upon our personal freedoms, slowed down our economy, and have made it harder to run a successful business.

We were also promised that the Washington D.C. swamp would be drained of political cronies doing the bidding of big-money donors in backroom deals. But there are still those looking to use their influence to create a government that serves them, rather than the American people. It’s time for Republicans to keep their promises — anything less may prove disastrous during the next election.

For many years, billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has used his sizable fortune to try to push through legislation with the sole purpose of eliminating his competition. Adelson has fully committed to the resort-style hotel/casino model and owns luxury resorts all over the world, including the Venetian in Las Vegas. He wants to outlaw state-legalized internet gaming under the guise that the law would protect us from ourselves. He has tried to say that his concern is with underage gambling and even funding terrorism, but the reality seems that he just doesn’t think you have the right to a little gambling fun if you can’t afford one of his $300-per-night rooms.

Originally, Adelson tried to push the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) through Congress in an attempt to rewrite the Federal Wire Act of 1961 which would ban most forms of online gambling, with the exception of Fantasy Sports. Once Congress put the brakes on this legislation, Adelson changed tactics and appealed directly to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to get him to reverse the Department of Justice’s position on the matter unilaterally. Had Sessions gone along with the reversal it would have been an attack on state’s rights by overturning state laws legalizing online gaming and online sales of lottery tickets.

Ever persistent, Adelson is now rumored to be the force behind the possible offer of an amendment to the State Justice Commerce Appropriations bill in committee this week. The amendment, once again, seeks to advance Adelson’s agenda. However, banning online gaming at the federal level goes against the conservative principles and political platform that Republicans were sent to Washington to uphold.

If this legislation were to be passed, most forms of online gambling, like poker, would be banned. This would have an immediate negative impact on the regulated gambling industry throughout the U.S. Currently, New York, Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey have laws allowing some form of Internet gambling, with another half-dozen states currently weighing similar measures.

Additionally, it would ban any state with online lottery sales. Online lottery sales are a great boost to state economies and often support state-funded charities and public school programs; without online gambling, funding for these programs would surely be eliminated.

There is nothing wrong with responsible adults playing a little online poker. It’s fun, and you don’t even need to leave your house. Despite these truths, this gambling ban is being pushed as a way to curtail the evils of online gambling because we can’t be trusted to control ourselves. In reality, this is just another way for Adelson to protect his casinos from free market competition. If he were truly concerned about saving Americans from the supposed dangers of gambling, his legislation wouldn’t have exemptions to things like Fantasy Sports. Even though Fantasy sports uses real money to bet on their games, it poses no threat to the market share of Adelson’s casinos…so apparently that means it’s safe for us to play.

Legislators need to consider the significant consequences on local economies that currently have legalized online gaming and lotteries. The legal, regulated online gambling industries in those states would become illegal overnight should RAWA pass, risking thousands of jobs and a loss of millions in tax revenue.

Throughout the country libertarians and conservatives are growing increasingly opposed to RAWA as demonstrated at last year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) –– 90 percent of attendees stated in a survey that they opposed the bill. If the Republican-controlled Congress wants to stay in control, they need to keep their promises and remember that they serve their constituents first and foremost. They must remember they’re there to drain the swamp.

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