The latest attempt to ban online gambling in the United States came in September and represented the second bill this year that came from friends of Sheldon Adelson. The Congressmen who decided that online gambling was a danger to Americans were beneficiaries of Adelson’s many political donations.
That brought online gambling back to the spotlight in Congress. While numerous issues remain untouched and unsettled in the legislature, online gambling somehow made it to the Committee on the Judiciary again, this time in the form of S.3376.
Several months later, the bill remains lightly worded but clear about desiring to reaffirm the “prohibition of funding of unlawful internet gambling.” The lack of detail and movement could mean that the introduction of the bill was simply a gesture, a nod to Adelson that three Senators were in his corner. But it could also mean that a plan is in the works to move the bill during the lame duck session of Congress.
Adelson’s Sad Political Season
Sheldon Adelson wasn’t having a great year. His numerous donations to various political campaigns were not furthering his goal of banning online gaming in the United States. One of his favorite Congressmen to support, Senator Lindsey Graham, failed to make it to the top tier of presidential candidates and was unsuccessful in pushing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act earlier in 2016.
Adelson also continued to be disappointed in the eventual Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, and while he did donate to several super PACs, he chose to give most of his millions in political donations to down-ballot Republicans in Congress. The Adelson family-owned newspaper, Las Vegas Review-Journal, did become the only major newspaper to endorse Trump, but Adelson knew that it would be Congressmen most likely to do his bidding.
And those donations worked, as Senator Tom Cotton introduced a new anti-online gambling bill in September. S.3376 is different from RAWA in that it doesn’t focus on the Wire Act so much as a reversal of the 2011 Department of Justice decision to exempt many forms of online gambling from the Wire Act. However, the goal remains the same.
Graham co-sponsored the bill, along with fellow Republican Senator Mike Lee.
Walks like a Lame Duck
Congress is looking at a lame-duck session after the November 8 elections. Before the new President, Senators, and Representatives officially take their positions, many lawmakers take the opportunity to move bills that may not have as good of a chance of passage when the new recruits take office.
Not only are the three above-mentioned Senators anxious to please Adelson, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid – a Democrat with close ties to Adelson – has indicated in the past that he supports the online gambling ban. Reid is retiring in January and has no votes to salvage, but going out on a high note with Adelson would be a good move for the fellow Nevadan, despite protestations that he has no particular alliance with the casino mogul.
Even so, Gambling Compliance recently spoke to Reid about that specific issue, asking if he planned to push the online gambling ban through Congress in the lame-duck session. “I, personally, don’t plan on doing anything,” he replied.
Sen. Reid tells @GamblingComp he has no intention of pushing RAWA in lame duck session. Says it is political pay back for Adelson's PAC$-JP— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) October 17, 2016
The wording of that statement was interesting, in that he may know of something being done, but he won’t be pushing RAWA on his own. Any interpretations of Reid’s statement, plans, or alliances are only speculative at this point, though, which leaves the door wide open for action.
Whether there will be a clandestine move by anyone to push an online gambling ban, which would likely include poker and remove all rights from states that have already legalized and regulated online gambling in some form, is pure guesswork. However, the poker community would be remiss if it didn’t keep its eyes and ears open for any hint of action in Congress.
The Poker Players Alliance is certainly watching the existing bills closely. The political sphere is volatile this year, and Republicans are particularly unhappy with their splintered party and the possibility of a significant loss of power on November 8. Depending on the outcome of that election, the poker community should be on the lookout for desperate moves in desperate times.