Money Talks Louder Than Morality When It Comes To RAWA Fight

John Mehaffey March 10, 2015 1211 Reads
US Online Gambling Regulation RAWA

The hearing to discuss the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) was scheduled for March 6, but is postponed indefinitely. The bill in question was written by lobbyists under the direction of Las Vegas Sands. Its founder and CEO, Sheldon Adelson, openly admits that he is willing to spend “whatever it takes” to outlaw online gaming.

That statement does not appear to mean that a public service announcement campaign would be funded by Adelson. No ads on the topic have hit the airwaves in Las Vegas where online poker and sports betting are legal. It is a safe assumption that Adelson’s spending on the topic of online gambling is going towards political contributions.

Adelson wants his audience to believe that he is morally opposed to online gambling. Chris Grove published an article at Bluff detailing how RAWA leaves numerous exemptions for various forms of online gambling.

RAWA does not seek to ban online horseracing or daily fantasy sports. It also does not affect Nevada’s mobile sports betting industry, an activity Las Vegas Sands already supports on its premises. It does not even attempt to increase enforcement to pursue offshore sites that operate without licensing in the U.S.

The language of RAWA is clear. The goal is simply to put licensed online gaming, an industry operated by several competitors of Las Vegas Sands, out of business. It is easy to see the motive behind that.

Las Vegas Sands previous online gambling ventures

Those of us in the industry know how absurd this position is.

Las Vegas Sands entered the online gaming market through a partnership with Cantor Gaming in 2006. That business ceased operations after it failed to gain traction.

The North American Poker Tour, sponsored by PokerStars, was held at the Venetian in 2010. The sports books at Venetian and Palazzo accept deposits for mobile betting, making it hard to buy the argument that Las Vegas Sands and its CEO are opposed to remote gambling.

Las Vegas Sands had no online gaming partner when states started to legalize online poker.

At the same time Boyd Gaming, Station Casinos, Caesars Entertainment, Stratosphere, Golden Nugget, Tropicana, Resorts, Trump Entertainment, Treasure Island, and Golden Gaming all signed agreements with online gaming partners.

Las Vegas Sands did not fight legalization of online gaming in Nevada. Adelson only decided he should spend “whatever it takes” to attack regulated online gaming after investors started pouring cash into the newly regulated industry.

Companies operating the sites Adelson looks to shut down through legislation are some of Las Vegas Sands’ biggest competitors on the Strip.

Let’s look at the experts

Adelson admitted during the Global Gaming Expo that his preschool grandchildren are better at operating technology than he is. That should tell reasonable people all they need to know about Adelson’s technology credentials.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) represent states that do not have casinos. They are the sponsors of RAWA in the Senate and House.

It is easy to question Graham’s understanding of the topic. He admitted on Sunday’s Meet the Press that he has never sent an email. Graham accepted campaign contributions from the Adelson family in 2013 and it looks like more is on the way.

Rep. Chaffetz is pushing his state’s agenda onto the country. Utah already outlawed online gaming through its legislature, a right it enjoys under the 10th Amendment. While Utah is one of just two states where all forms of gambling are illegal, Chaffetz enjoys staying at the Palazzo, a casino-resort owned by Las Vegas Sands.

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) has produced embarrassing moments. Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown is among those employed by Adelson’s lobbying group that has left an interesting impression on the mainstream.

Andy Abboud spoke on the topic of online gaming at iGaming North America in 2014. Abboud admitted that “they lost me” when describing a tech demonstration on the topic of online gambling security.

Let’s not forget Blanche Lincoln’s inability to discuss the issue of online gambling coherently. Lincoln was thrown softball questions and did not even have an opposing view to debate, yet still managed to blow it.

Maybe Las Vegas Sands and its lobbyists finally learned that the position is a loser on its merits. The group no-showed for the recent Conservative Political Action Committee debate on the topic.

Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling refers users to illegal gambling affiliates

CSIG has no problem promoting illegal online gambling. It links to offshore sports betting affiliates from its website.

For example, CSIG links to one in this article. Here is another CSIG referral promoting unlicensed, offshore gambling.

This group is trying to outlaw sites licensed by states, yet at the same time it refers visitors to Bovada, BetOnline, and Sportsbook.com affiliates.

Massive opposition to RAWA, yet bill does not die

Former Senator Ron Paul was the first of many politicians to point out how protectionist Sheldon Adelson’s lobbying efforts are. More conservative leaders shared the same opinion, urging Congress to defeat RAWA.

The National Governors Association, Democratic Governors Association, North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, Fraternal Order of Police, and National Conference of State Legislatures have all written letters to Congress opposing RAWA.

The bill still manages to survive with only one supporter.

Adelson should not be making policy

In an idealistic world, Adelson would have no more input in the legislative process than any other person. That is not how Washington D.C. works today. Massive political donations create a scenario where a lobbyist can get his bill introduced in Congress and keep it alive against vast opposition if enough cash is behind it.

That is not what happens in a democracy or republic. That is a symptom of a financial oligarchy.

The Adelson family has donated hundreds of millions of dollars to federal election campaigns, many having nothing to do with districts in which Adelson resides or operates casinos. In exchange, politicians are happy to sing Adelson’s song to Congress.

That scenario is exactly what is wrong with this country.

Leave tech policy to the educated

The tech industry should not have to worry about those unable to operate iPhones or email accounts putting it out of business through legislation. Innovation should not be lost or discouraged because a large political contributor says it should, regardless of his reasons.

The regulated iGaming industry is legal, investments have been made, and jobs have been created. It is too late to turn back the clock. Forcing a change of policy now will discourage future investment and research in the industry, for no other reason than to make a billionaire happy.

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