In what can only be categorized as a landslide, attendees at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) said they not only oppose the ongoing attempts to impose a federal online gambling ban at the behest of billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson, but also view it as crony capitalism and a clear violation of the US Constitution’s Tenth Amendment.
This is according to a survey conducted during the four days at CPAC by the Institute For Liberty, a libertarian think tank that has opposed efforts in Congress to prohibit online gambling. The IFL is a common signatory on letters opposing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act and other federal-level efforts to ban online gambling.
What the survey asked and how CPAC attendees responded
The survey by the Institute For Liberty asked conference-goers their views on a number of issues, including the two online gambling questions mentioned above.
The precise wording of the questions wasn’t made available, but based on reporting from The Hill, the questions were worded to trigger the libertarianism that runs deep in most CPAC attendees.
According to The Hill, the first question asked whether they support efforts by some in Congress to overturn state laws regarding online gambling.
Ninety-one percent of respondents said they don’t support these efforts.
The second question didn’t fare much better: 88 percent of respondents called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act bills that have appeared in Congress in recent years “a violation of the Tenth Amendment and an example of crony capitalism.”
“Conservatives see RAWA for what it is — one of the worst forms of crony capitalism in Congress today,” said IFL President Andrew Langer in a press release. “RAWA is nothing short of an effort by one of the richest men in the world to ban a form of competition for his brick and mortar casino empire – and everyone knows it. Worse yet, he is even willing to trample on the Constitution to do it.”
“The Leadership of both houses of Congress should know that rank and file conservative voters reject the crony RAWA bill and will defend the Constitution from this Vegas-purchased onslaught on liberty,” Langer added. “We will be vigilant opposing this bill.”
How much stock should we put in this survey?
I often caution against reading too much into polling by groups who clearly fall on one side of a certain issue, and while I agree with the results, it’s important to place these positive results in the proper context.
First, the IFL is a libertarian group that has been on the front lines of opposing RAWA. From what I’ve seen, the IFL designed the questions to gin up two common libertarian concerns: states’ rights versus federal oversight, and the freedom for individuals to make their own decisions so long as they aren’t hurting others, e.g. gambling.
This is important to note because CPAC is known for attracting people with strong libertarian streaks, even though it is first and foremost a conservative conference. The libertarian tilt can consequently be seen in the recent presidential straw poll results from the conference.
From 2010 to 2016, a candidate with the last name Paul won the CPAC Straw Poll in every non-presidential election year:
- 2010: Ron Paul
- 2011: Ron Paul
- 2012: Mitt Romney
- 2013: Rand Paul
- 2014: Rand Paul
- 2015: Rand Paul
- 2016: Ted Cruz
Bottom line: Results are good but not a game changer
Yes, the results of the Institute for Liberty survey are a clear sign that federal action prohibiting online gambling is unpopular. However, rephrasing the questions in more subtle ways would have almost certainly decreased the gap between the positive and negative responses.
After all, it’s clear there’s a big difference between asking:
“Do you support federal efforts to take away a state’s right to pass online gambling laws?”
“Do you support federal efforts to protect minors and compulsive gamblers by prohibiting online gambling?”