Former Congressman Ron Paul unleashed a scathing critique of beltway politics on the “Eurasia Review” website this week. He specifically attributed the uptick in congressional support for an iGaming ban to “crony capitalism” designed for the benefit of Republican super donor Sheldon Adelson.
In true Texan fashion, Paul didn’t pull any punches as he did it, either: “It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson,” he said.
The legislation Paul is referring to is the “Restoration of America’s Wire Act” (RAWA) that is currently making its way through Congress.
RAWA is sponsored by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The bill seeks to create an outright federal ban on iGaming that would override the patchwork of state legislation currently allowing the industry to operate legally in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Fearing that history may repeat itself, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) has made ensuring RAWA does not pass during the current lame duck session of Congress – the way the UIGEA did in 2006 – its number one priority.
Paul even drifted into the realm of ad hominim attacks at lawmakers themselves, accusing them of wrapping a pure campaign money grab in the cloak of moral outrage:
Supporters of an Internet gambling ban publicly deny they are motivated by a desire to curry favor with a wealthy donor. Instead, they give a number of high-minded reasons for wanting to ban this activity. Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists!” he said.
Libertarian Principles Driving the Criticism
Ron Paul is known for being a fierce libertarian and defender of the sovereignty of state governments. That worldview is clearly on display when he turns his criticism away from those supporting the policy and toward the policy itself.
“Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given any authority to regulate activities such as online gambling,” he said.
Further confirmation of the sincerity of his words came from the fact that the words “tax revenue” were not mentioned by him a single time.
Instead, Paul went on to lament what he sees as the more sinister hand of the proverbial “Big Brother” at work in these types of federal bans, generally.
Government bureaucrats will use this new authority to expand their surveillance of the Internet activities of Americans who have no interest in gambling, just as they used the new powers granted by the Patriot Act to justify mass surveillance,” he said.
He then goes on to bolster this accusation by framing the issue in the context of how it could be that an activity – that is regulated at the state level offline – could possibly be simultaneously banned at the federal level online.
“It is about whether Americans who do gamble should have the choice to do so online, or be forced to visit brick-and-mortar casinos,” Paul said.
Federal Bans Ineffective
Paul also added that even if you don’t agree with any of his arguments, there remains the fact that federal bans simply don’t work. Moreover, he argues that since demand isn’t going anywhere, it is the criminal element that will swoop in to provide the service if there are no legal channels capable of doing so.
But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists,” he said.
A Welcome Voice
While Paul is no longer in Congress himself, he remains a very popular, influential, figure amongst certain portions of the electorate. His base of popularity also tends to crossover with more conservative circles, which could be key for the iGaming industry.
While it is true that there is no substitute for politics in money, online poker enthusiasts everywhere should be happy to see him taking the time to speak out on this issue to his supporters. It is not entirely farfetched to think that having Paul tackle this head on could result in a few more phone calls being made to Congress against RAWA.
It remains to be seen what will ultimately come of deep-pocketed Sheldon Adelson and his near manic obsession with getting a federal iGaming ban through Congress. In the meantime, the best the industry can do is to continue to welcome and encourage support from people with powerful voices in the public debate like Ron Paul.