An article that appeared on the Huffington Post on Saturday is striking fear in the hearts of online poker players in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey. It’s no secret that Sheldon Adelson has been willing to spend “whatever it takes” to get online gambling banned on a federal level, but now it seems he’s offering to do the opposite – hold onto his billions in exchange for the same reward.
Apparently the casino magnate has decided to shift gears in his bankrolled campaign to get online poker and casino gambling prohibited across the nation. Instead of funding the campaigns of republicans he believes will support his cause, Adelson is now knocking on the door of current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Reid will be handing over the office reins to Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when the year runs out, and may be the Las Vegas Sands CEO’s last chance at getting RAWA passed in the lame duck session.
RAWA – the Restoration of America’s Wire Act – was introduced to the House and Senate by Rep. Jason Cahffetz (R-UT) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Strongly backed by Mr. Adelson, RAWA would roll back time to 2011, before the US Department of Justice redefined the Federal Wire Act of 1961, ultimately giving states the right to regulate any form of online gambling outside of sports betting. Passage of that federal bill would result in all internet gambling becoming illegal, even in the three states where online poker and/or casino gaming has been legally up and running since 2013.
You may be wondering why Adelson would suddenly implore the help of a Democrat who has historically supported the US gambling industry, especially since it’s a primary resource of his home state of Nevada. But instead of offering to throw money at Reid, he’s essentially threatening to throw it in the direction of Reid’s opposition.
Harry Reid has already affirmed his intention to run for re-election in the Nevada Senate two years from now. That means there will be a Republican running against him. Thus Adelson is suggesting that he could subsidize Reid’s opponent, or keep his money in his pocket. You scratch my back, I scratch yours.
Reid has not declared his intention to review RAWA before the new legislative session convenes in January, simply stating, “We’ll have to see.”
The decision is not left in the hands of the Senate Majority Leader alone, but his influence could be paramount to RAWA’s passage. Although the House Judiciary Committee dismissed a hearing scheduled to debate RAWA, Reid could throw it into the spending bill that must be finalized in Congress by December 11th. Omnibus bills such as these are extremely complicated and often privately discussed among congressional leaders. As the Huffington Post so eloquently stated, they “often engage in horse-trading over pet projects until the very last minute.” That’s exactly the type of manipulation that could get Adelson’s RAWA pushed through the door post-haste.
If the anti-online gambling measure fails to pass this year, lawmakers will be forced to re-introduce the proposition in January in front of a whole new panel of elected officials. Although Congress will be dominated by republicans in the coming year, the delay would give online poker and casino proponents more time to wrangle up influential opposition to debate the issue on fresh turf.