The curious alliance to ban internet gaming

Federal laws regarding the prohibition of online gambling have been a bone of contention for a while now. (And no… I’m not just saying that because I never got my $57 back from Pokerstars, you #$(*&&!!! ), but I digress. Of course, such prohibitions don’t seem to apply to everything, but we’ll have more on that later. Suffice it to say that there is still a movement underway to restrict online gaming, but who is behind it? Well, Sheldon Adelson is a natural guess, since online gaming cuts into the profits of his many brick and mortar gambling interests. But there are players in Congress who now seem to be similarly inclined, and as Matt Lewis points out, the names might surprise you.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that “Utah Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz is preparing to introduce a bill that would restore the pre-2011 federal ban on Internet gaming, a spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday. It would join a similar bill to be sponsored in the Senate by GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.”

“The goals of the Graham-Chaffetz legislation, continues the Review-Journal, “are consistent with the highly publicized campaign by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson to outlaw Internet gambling on moral grounds.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the file properties of the House bill — virtually identical to Graham’s Senate bill — indicate that it was written by a Darryl Nirenberg, who reportedly now lobbies for Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

Where to start with all the seeming hypocrisy on display here? Isn’t banning gambling to avoid temptation to wagering addicts something that would fall under the general category of Uncle Sugar saving the people from themselves? What happened to the mantra of personal responsibility and living with the consequences of your own choices? And let’s just say that the premise of “gambling is bad” fell in neatly with conservative values. Then why is government whole hog into the idea of the lottery? And that’s not to mention that nobody seems to be rushing to shut down Atlantic City, Vegas or riverboat gambling on the Mississippi.

Perhaps it’s just the online component of gambling that makes it bad. But particularly considering the identify of one of the backers, why would there be, shall we say, certain exceptions in the proposed bill?

There’s also this: The draft of the Senate bill (available here) contains a carve-out for horseracing, which opponents see as a sop for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. (According to the draft bill, “The term ‘bet or wager’ does not include any activities set forth in section 5362(1)(E) of title 31, or any activities permitted under the Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 (15 U.S.C. 3001 et seq.)”)

Meanwhile, the Online Poker Report (such a thing exists) recently observed the curious fact that Sen. Graham has had very little interest in the issue … until now. Their post goes on to speculate that his sudden support for this might have something to do with the fact that he is up for re-election this year.

If you feel that there is some moral high ground to banning gambling entirely because it’s ripping the fabric of society apart, then stand up and move to ban it all. But dancing around the edges like this with such obvious flaws in the logic leaves a lot of questions for Graham and Chaffetz to answer. You’re willing to take the money of the hapless hoi polloi as long as it’s feeding cash into the government coffers, but if the owner of some major casinos wants to shut down a portion of the available gaming that threatens his bottom line (and is willing to carve out an exception for horse racing) then you’re all on board with it?

This one writes its own punch lines.

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