Graham, Rubio go after online gambling

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Two GOP 2016 presidential candidates introduced legislation Wednesday that would push the government to crack down on most forms of online gambling.

Republican candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.) reintroduced his Restoration of America’s Wire Act and attracted a new GOP co-sponsor, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla), who is also running for president. Five other senators are also supporting the bill. 

{mosads}The legislation is backed by GOP mega-donor and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has argued opening up online gambling could make it too easily accessible and harm children and the broader public. 

Critics say his support is aimed at locking out competition to his physical casinos. 

The proposal would renew federal restrictions on online gambling. It would reinstate the original interpretation of the Wire Act, which was used to prosecute early Internet gambling such as online poker. The Justice Department changed its interpretation in 2011 to say the law should not be used to go after online gambling, except traditional sports betting.

“Now, because of this decision by the Obama Administration, virtually any cell phone or computer in South Carolina could become a video poker machine,” Graham said in a statement. “A major rewrite of a long-standing federal law like this should be made by the people’s elected representatives in Congress and signed into law by the president, not done administratively.” 

Rubio, who announced his 2016 bid in April, was not a sponsor of last year’s bill. But he previously said he opposes online gambling. 

“Expanded gambling presents many challenges, especially on the Internet where safeguards to protect people from fraud and addiction are harder to enforce,” Rubio said. “In 2011, the Obama-Holder Justice Department completely bypassed Congress and unilaterally decided to re-interpret the law to open the door to a widespread expansion of online gambling. Congress should restore existing prohibitions on Internet gambling before beginning a public debate about next steps.”

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kelly Ayotta (R-N.H.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) are also backing the bill. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House.  

The proposal has come under fire from others in the gaming industry who say a blanket ban would open up a black market online. They have accused Adelson of twisting the arm of Congress to back the proposal, which was written with help from his firm. 

Adelson publicly disclosed $93 million in donations during the 2012 elections. That included $30 million to a super-PAC supporting GOP nominee Mitt Romney and another $15 million to a super-PAC supporting Newt Gingrich before he dropped out.  

Tags Lindsey Graham Marco Rubio Online gambling Restoration of America's Wire Act
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