Casino mogul Sheldon Adelson's offensive against Internet gambling has reached Congress, where politicians on both sides of the aisle are co-sponsoring the Restoration of America's Wire Act, which seeks to reverse a 2011 Justice Department decision to allow online gaming, according to The New York Times
The issue is causing internal strife within both the casino industry and Washington, while shining a light on the massive amounts of money at play.
The 80-year-old Adelson, chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands Corp., is one of the world’s richest men with an estimated fortune of $38 billion. He reportedly spent $90 million to defeat President Obama, according to Reuters
to Stop Internet Gambling wants to ban online gambling, arguing that it "targets the young, the poor and the elderly where they live" and "crosses the line of responsible gaming by bringing gambling into our living rooms and onto our smartphones, tablets and home computers 24 hours a day without necessary protections."
On Wednesday, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, both Republicans, introduced legislation
to reinstate the Wire Act, which long prohibited interstate gambling. The bill has more than a dozen co-sponsors, including Republicans and Democrats.
While the proposed legislation would outlaw online gambling, horse racing would be excluded.
Caesars Entertainment Corp., MGM Resorts International and other casinos are combating Adelson and his group, arguing that online gambling is an additional revenue source. They also maintain a federal ban on online gambling violates states’ rights, an argument Republicans used against Obamacare, the Times reported. Betting equipment and software firms are also in this camp as are online poker companies.
They have formed the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection and have enlisted the services of two former House Republicans, Michael G. Oxley of Ohio and Mary Bono of California, as well as former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, also a Republican, and Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager.
According to Reuters, Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware allow some forms of Internet gambling, while several other states are considering it. Four states — New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia and Illinois — sell online lottery tickets, while several Native American-owned casinos plan to enter the online market soon.
More than $50 million was spent on lobbying in New Jersey to pass the Garden State’s 2013 decision to legalize some forms of Internet gaming, according to the Times.
Investment banking firm Morgan Stanley predicts that by 2020 online gambling could be worth $8 billion a year, a figure that represents some 12 percent of current gambling revenues at both commercial and Native American casinos, according to the Times.
The issue may be at play in the 2016 presidential race.
At this week’s Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, Adelson invited former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – whose state permits online gambling– Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to attend. Bush and Christie may run for president in 2016.
Not on the invite list but in Adelson’s camp on the issue are other Republican governors: Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Rick Perry of Texas and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. Perry and Jindal are also potential 2016 GOP presidential candidates.
Haley and Perry have submitted letters to congressional leaders, writing that online gambling strips states of their ability to control gambling, while Jindal has promised to stop Internet gambling in the Bayou State, according to The Associated Press.
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