Presidential candidates try to kill online gambling

Vegas stock photo

Photo via Sigurd Gartmann/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The house always wins.

In the midst of a prolonged American presidential election circus, it’s easy to lose track of what the candidates are doing off camera. But it bears some scrutiny, as a recent report on a new piece of legislation shows.

On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R—S.C.) introduced the Restoration of America’s Wire Act to the Senate, a law which would make online gambling illegal. Graham, the bill’s sponsor, was joined as co-sponsor by fellow Republican senator and presidential candidate Marco Rubio, as well as four other Republican senators and one Democrat.

The National Journal’s Dustin Volz describes the bill as “a measure that proponents say would ‘restore’ the proper interpretation of a decades-old federal ban on some gambling operations by expanding it to include Internet gambling.”

The legislation’s summary on Congress.gov explains that it “Amends provisions of the federal criminal code, commonly known as the Wire Act, to provide that the prohibition against transmission of wagering information shall apply to any bet or wager, or information assisting in the placing of any bet or wager (thus making such prohibition applicable to all types of gambling activities, including internet gambling).”

A 2011 Obama administration memo clarified that the Wire Act relates only to sports betting. The bill’s supporters in the Senate believe that interpretation to be too narrow. But the move to expand the definition has not been a popular one. This bill is similar in most aspects to the bill of the same name introduced during the last congress. That bill failed.

Whatever else it might be, it is certainly another bill to limit free action on the Internet.

Another noteworthy aspect of this bill is one of its most ardent public supporters, Sidney Adelson. Adelson is a billionaire and a major supporter of Republican candidates and causes. Oh, and a Las Vegas casino mandate.

Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, has a net worth of $29 billion and has with a straight face decried online gaming because it is a “societal train wreck waiting to happen.”

Adelson’s brother, Lenny, has been appointed to Graham’s campaign finance committee. Adelson himself donated to Graham’s Senate reelection campaign last year and co-chaired a February fundraiser for the Senator. As Volz noted, “That cash coincided with a sudden interest in online gambling from the senator, who had been quiet on the issue.”

The bill was introduced one week after the Charleston church shooting, which took place in Graham’s home state of South Carolina.

While correlation may not imply causation, a bill introduced in the shadow of a tragedy, advocated by a man whose business would benefit from its passage, and which was co-sponsored by a senator who has a financial relationship with that senator requires close scrutiny, a scrutiny it is not getting.

Photo via Sigurd Gartmann/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Curt Hopkins

Curt Hopkins

Curt Hopkins has over two decades of experience as a journalist, editorial strategist, and social media manager. His work has been published by Ars Technica, Reuters, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. He is the also founding director of the Committee to Protect Bloggers, the first organization devoted to global free speech rights for bloggers