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Conservatives oppose Adelson’s federal gambling ban


For nearly two years, conservative and liberty-oriented organizations have warned congressional leaders about the danger of passing legislation known as “Restore America’s Wire Act.” The bill was written by lobbyists for Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson and is designed to overturn state laws that create competition for his brick and mortar casino empire. 

This month, however, conservatives across the nation sent a clear message to Adelson and his cohorts that they will not tolerate such an egregious example of political cronyism.

{mosads}During the Conservative Political Action Conference held at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, the Institute for Liberty conducted a survey of the attendees that should give pause to those in Congress seeking to placate the GOP’s biggest donor.


An incredible nine in ten participants said they would oppose efforts to have the federal government overturn state laws regarding online gaming. In addition, 88 percent said they see RAWA as an example of cronyism. In an age of political division and factionalism, the results are staggering. 

Despite millions of dollars in Astroturf spending and political contributions, it is clear that conservatives see the bill for what it is – one of the worst forms of crony capitalism in Congress today. RAWA is nothing short of an effort by one of the richest men in the world to ban a form of competition for his brick and mortar casino empire – and everyone knows it. Worse yet, he is even willing to trample on the Constitution to do it.

RAWA was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in the Senate and by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in the House of Representatives.  The bill has been sold as a means of stopping the proliferation of online gambling, but in reality it only targets states like New Jersey and Delaware that have legalized online gaming for their residents. The legislation also prohibits states like Georgia and Illinois from selling lottery tickets online.

During a congressional hearing on the bill, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) noted that the bill would short-change half a dozen states that allow for the sale of online lottery tickets.  Then, Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) pointed out that by regulating online intrastate commerce, the bill would open the door legislation sought by gun control advocates to bar the sale of online ammunition.

A diverse number of organizations ranging from the Institute for Liberty, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the American Conservative Union to the organization representing state lotteries all oppose RAWA.

To Sheldon Adelson’s credit, he didn’t get to where he is without being tenacious. Despite running into a brick wall of opposition, he is again trying to impose his will via Congress. RAWA has been re-introduced. Perhaps most troubling this time around were comments by then-Sen. Jeff Sessions, who at his confirmation hearings insinuated that he was willing to reopen the issue at the Department of Justice. This would be a grave error.

A core component of federalism is the right of states to govern themselves. Gambling has always fallen under that rubric. Some states allow for liberal gaming laws while others, like Utah and Hawaii, bar gambling all together. That is how things are supposed to be.

The federal government should not trample on states’ rights, and certainly not to satisfy the parochial whims of one of the GOP’s largest donors. As Justice O’Connor said in 1992, “The Constitution protects us from our own best intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day.”

That is a guiding principle that has served our nation well for more than two centuries. It would be foolhardy to violate it in this case.

Andrew Langer is president of the Institute for Liberty, a conservative public policy advocacy organization.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags 10th Amendment Andrew Langer Gambling Institute for Liberty Jason Chaffetz Jeff Sessions Jeff Sessions Lindsey Graham Sheldon Adelson

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