The war for the future of gambling in the United States had another skirmish recently when the bill written for billionaire Sheldon Adelson was quietly shelved by the Republicans he donates to.
The gambling industry in the United States has always been a very political beast. Up until just twenty five years ago the duopoly of Las Vegas and Atlantic City contained this quite neatly but today’s landscape, both politically and in terms of US gambling laws is hugely different. Casinos now litter the north east like shopping malls, only twice as gaudy, several states have legal online gambling and the number introducing lotteries increases with every election day ballot.
Annoying Adelson Act Axed Again
• Casino owner’s attempt to ban online gambling stalls
• No time on the calendar say Republicans
• Law would prohibit mobile casino gambling too
The spread of gambling beyond the closed shops of Vegas and Atlantic City has seen a huge influx of investment from some of the richest people in America and their economic leverage, especially over politicians, is well known. Able to make massive contributions to political campaigns they favor it is unsurprising that many politicians will adjust their position on certain issues accordingly, falling into line with their benefactor’s attitudes.
This then ranges very rich people against each other and their various interests in direct conflict not just for current market share but also the potential future of the market as a whole. Take internet betting in the US. There are very few states where this is legal despite the internet being as ubiquitous as oxygen these days. Why? Because those with a stake in casino gambling don’t want the competition, and they’re contributing to the politicians who make the decisions.
Legislatures at the state level do far more actual law making than the federal government can manage due to the ridiculously childish level to which both sides of the aisle have now descended, becoming the most unproductive congress in history, and it is here many of the battles between the various factions are fought. However the jackpot for any of these warring tribes is one of those rare moments of federal activity and the passing of a bill in their favor.
Putting His Money Where His Money Is
The latest to shoot at the hoop was Sheldon Adelson well known casino owner and Republican party donor who for many years merely exercised his wallet to those willing to be as supportive as possible of the state of Israel. This proved rather simple for Republicans given that most of them were already of that mind in the first place. He was a rich, single issue donor that kept the Republican party afloat in hard times and didn’t ask much of them, and then, then things changed.
Somewhat behind the times the Department of Justice, those well known sons of fun, is responsible for enforcing the 1961 Federal Wire Act that strictly prohibits gambling and indeed gambling operations of any sort, over telephone wires. The emergence of online poker sites in the US was an inevitability given the internet’s sprawling tentacles, and for a while the regulation applies as much to these as to a telephone bookie.
Then on the night before Christmas Eve 2011 the Department of Justice changed it’s mind. The difference between online gambling and on line gambling perhaps becoming obvious to them. This opened the way for states to legalize online gambling. Mr. Sheldon Adelson was hugely displeased, and his displeasure was backed up by billions. His campaign to have the Federal Wire Act returned has led to the Restore America’s Wire Act which, despite being carefully presented was only ever a ban on internet gambling.
Support for the bill was expected to be forthcoming from the man who had donated so much, and indeed would be called upon to do so again in the run up to the 2016 Presidential Election. However the Republicans were painfully aware that this was big money very obviously asking to influence the law of the land in their favor. Sheldon Adelson was embarrassing them, and this week the Restore America’s Wire Act quitely slipped from the legislative agenda.
Turkeys Get In Billionaire’s Way
Now obviously the Republicans have cited the few working days they have left in this congress what with the Thanksgiving and Christmas recesses, but in the end the smear of pandering to rich donors so often leveled at them by democratic opponents, didn’t need this proof-of-concept attempt by Mr. Adelson to protect his commercial interests. The awkward position of the Republicans and indeed Libertarians Sheldon’s money has backed over the years was manifest.
Worse still it drove a knife into some of the core beliefs of the hardline right. The idea that the federal government should dictate to the individual states on the composition of their economic system a dire thin-end-of-the-wedge concept to many of them. This internal squabble then between principles, in this case federalism, and practicality, the need for massive campaign contributions, has raged within the right since 2012.
It wasn’t helped by the re-election of President Obama, a political defeat that the Republicans will claim they’ve bounced back from perhaps pointing to their midterm election results despite low turn out probably invalidating them as an indicator of the presidential election to come. The 2012 election results showed that the Republicans were going to have to appeal outside their traditional voter base, and that, that was going to take money. Lots of money.
This congress might have quietly swept the embarrassment under the carpet for now, but as we close in on November 2016 expect to see frightened Republicans begin to once again support this rich man’s desire to pervert the law of the land in his own interest, gambling news of their support will loosen Sheldon’s purse strings as their campaigns begin to run out of money. Sheldon Adelson may never get the bill he wants, but at the very least he’s highlighting the influence of money on politics, which is no bad thing.