Elephants In The Room: Will GOP Presidential Candidates Support RAWA?

April 29, 2015
Elephants In The Room: Will GOP Presidential Candidates Support RAWA?

The so-called Adelson primary has begun.

The hand-picked candidates that have been invited to have an audience with Sheldon Adelson are expected to be grilled on the issue of online gambling, which happens to be one of the mega-donors chief concerns.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to compile a list of the potential Republican Party presidential candidates (from frontrunners to fringe), and where they will likely come down on RAWA – with or without Adelson bucks raining down upon them.

Serious contenders

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush

As Eric D. Frank wrote, President Jeb Bush would be unlikely to be a friend of online gambling.

Bush fought against virtually all attempts to expand gaming during his time as governor of Florida. Back in 2008, Bush called Florida a “family-friendly, wholesome, prosperous” state, adding that “gambling doesn’t have a part in that.”

Upshot: Bush hasn’t come out in favor of RAWA, but doing so wouldn’t conflict with his past statements or deeds.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio

Like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio’s record indicates he is opposed to gambling of all stripes.

As Speaker of the House in Florida, Rubio consistently opposed expanded gaming, and in 2012 he told the Las Vegas Sun, “I’m not a big fan of expanding gaming on the Internet.”

No longer the Tea Party darling he once was, if Rubio is going to make a serious push for the Republican nomination he’s going to need a major backer.

Since he’s already aligned with Sheldon Adelson on virtually every important issue, the idea of backing Adelson’s online gaming ban seems like a logical step, particularly when we consider Rubio’s history of anti-gambling votes and stances.

It should be noted that Rubio didn’t cosponsor Lindsey Graham’s senate version of RAWA in 2014. But vocally supporting RAWA would likely cement Rubio as one of Adelson’s top candidates.

Upshot: It seems as if a President Rubio would throatily back an online gambling ban. That being said, doing so could certainly cause conflict in the Tea Party-principled Senator, and he might have some explaining to do with his states’ rights base.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

Scott Walker is emerging as a serious presidential candidate.

Walker’s record as Governor of Wisconsin places him firmly in the conservative side of the ledger, but his policies tend to be rooted in states’ rights ideology.

Additionally, Walker is one of the few candidates who will likely not be beholden to Sheldon Adelson’s campaign contributions (they would certainly be welcome, of course) as Walker already has already won the doting appreciation of the Koch brothers.

At an April fundraiser, David Koch said he wasn’t going to endorse any candidates, but went on to say that the brothers would give their sanction “when the primaries are over and Scott Walker is the nominee,” according to New York Times article.

The Kochs’ positions on online gambling are unclear, but their views tend to run more towards the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. David Koch even ran as the Libertarian Party’s Vice Presidential candidate in 1980.

Walker’s only policy position on gaming during his time as Wisconsin Governor came in regards to Indian gaming, where he decreed any off-reservation gaming expansion in Wisconsin would have to be approved by all tribes. Walker held true to this rule when he vetoed a bill that would have allowed a new casino to be built in Kenosha. The casino was opposed by several other tribes.

Upshot: Walker could go either way on this issue.

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul

Rand Paul’s entire persona is built on libertarian ideals, so the idea of him supporting a bill that stomps on states’ rights and personal liberties should be out of the question. Especially considering that his father, Ron Paul, is responsible for constructing Rand’s political base and has been a vociferous critic of Adelson and RAWA.

The younger Paul is also on the record against placing limitations on online gambling, telling TheAlphaPages.com, “I’m opposed to restrictions on online gambling. The government needs to stay out of that business.”

That being said, this is politics, and stranger things have happened.

Upshot: It would likely take Rand Paul having a tree land on his head and suffering amnesia for him to support RAWA.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

Of all the potential Republican candidates, no one has the track record with gaming, and particularly online gaming, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie possesses.

Problem is, Christie may not belong in the “serious contenders” category, as no candidate has more baggage than the New Jersey Governor – baggage that could end his presidential aspirations before he even gets started.

When it comes to gaming, Christie ok’ed and presided over New Jersey’s online gambling expansion, vocally boasting about the revenue the “billion-dollar industry” would produce annually. But the embattled politician has since walked back his support of the expansion, reportedly telling Adelson in February that the bill was going to pass with or without him, so he made as many “positive” changes as he could when he issued his conditional veto.

Christie has also gone back and forth in supporting New Jersey’s efforts to pass a sports betting expansion bill.

For the most part, his record in New Jersey indicates Christie seems to be willing to do what is politically expedient when it comes to gaming issues.

He’s also known to hold a grudge.

Christie’s ultimate position on online gambling may depend on when Adelson decides to throw his support behind a Christie campaign. Christie will likely have a much better memory than Mitt Romney did in 2012, when Newt Gingrich used Adelson money in an effort to sabotage Romney’s run before Romney got the nomination – at which point Adelson backed him.

Upshot: This is a tough one to predict, and will likely come down to how events play out on the campaign trail.

The undercard

Texas Senator Ted Cruz

A Tea Party darling, Cruz would likely find himself perpetually in the “spin zone” with his supporters if he decided to back RAWA, as it goes against two of the Tea Party’s core values: cronyism and states’ rights.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence

Pence is somewhat of a long shot to run for president following the kerfuffle over Indiana’s Religious Freedom law. Pence has come out against online gambling, urging the state’s congressional delegation to support a federal online gambling ban.

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham

Graham is for all intents and purposes Adelson’s RAWA intermediary in the Senate, having sponsored RAWA in 2014, and rumored to be contemplating a 2015 reintroduction. He’s a long shot to throw his hat in the ring.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee

As a staunch social conservative it’s likely Mike Huckabee has never seen a piece of anti-gambling legislation he hasn’t supported. His interview with Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling co-chair Blanche Lincoln was more or less ten minutes of defaming online gaming.

Ben Carson

Carson isn’t on the record when it comes to online gambling, but he is against the legalization of marijuana (also one of Adelson’s bread and butter issues) which shares many of the same arguments as online gambling legalization, both for and against.

Ohio Governor John Kasich

Kasich ran afoul of anti-gambling groups on 2011 when he proposed adding slot machines to Ohio’s racetracks. However, this doesn’t preclude Kasich from supporting a federal ban of online gambling.

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum

A social conservative’s social conservative, son of Pennsylvania Rick Santorum would probably jump at the chance to sign RAWA into law. Lucky for us his chances of winning the Republican nomination and going on to win the general election are in Dean Wormer’s words, “Zero… Point… ZERO.”

Rick Perry (Texas)

Perry has come out in favor of Adlson’s online gambling ban. We’re not sure if he remembers doing so though… oops.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal

Like Rick Perry, Governor Jindal was one of four sitting governors who have come out publicly and supported Sheldon Adelson’s proposed online gambling ban. Jindal wrote an op-ed against online gambling in 2014.

Former HP CEO Carly Fiorina

Fiorina is another candidate that shouldn’t require Adelson money to stay in the race, at least not initially. Where she stands on online gaming is probably a moot question at this point.

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