GOP leaders push off Adelson's bid to outlaw online gambling in regular order

Capitol Hill conservatives and libertarians were told Monday by the House Republican leadership that the Restore America’s Wire Act, which would ban online gambling, was not going to make it to the House floor in the lame duck session.


In what was going to be a battle of principles v. principals, GOP leaders decided it was too heavy a lift to get the bill throught the House Judiciary Committee and then onto the floor in the handful of actual business days left outside of the Thanksgiving and Christmas recesses. There is still a chance it could pop in a larger bill, but there is no time to get it through Judiciary.

In the week after the midterm elections, the House GOP leadership told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.), who has in the past supported online gambling, that if he wanted RAWA to pass, they would make it so as part of a clearing of the decks before the new session.

Reid did not call in the marker–yet.

If the RAWA bill was brought up, it would have put conservatives and libertarians in a bind because they did not relish the idea of Congress outlawing a contributor’s Internet competition.

Other opponents of the bill, many of whom abhor gambling, are uncomfortable with the federal government interfering with commerce inside a sovereign state, while others, agnostic on the morals of gambling, did not want Big Brother dictating lifestyle or behavior choices.

The House bill and its Senate companion were filed at the direction of casino plutocrat Sheldon Adelson, the president and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, a $14 billion-a-year gambling conglomerate.

For years, Adelson has been a financial backstop for the Republican Party and its candidates and its like-minded, but independent committees.

For years, all Adelson ever asked for was that Republicans support Israel, something they were prone to do anyway.

What drove Adelson for the big ask, was the Justice Department’s Dec. 23, 2011 shift in its interpretation of the 1961 Federal Wire Act, a law that banned gambling operations over telephone lines. When web-based gaming emerges, the Justice Department extended the Wire Act’s reach to cyber casino operations. Then, on the night before the night before Christmas 2011, DOJ flipped.

In the next Congress, Adelson will be back. But, for now the fight through regular order postponed.

That said, the lame duck session is not over until it is over. If RAWA is wrapped up in a larger bill, it could be lost in the sauce. It is troubling to remember that the casino always wins.