Casino moguls and congressional allies seek to overturn state laws
We all know someone who has bought a lottery ticket before, or who has played a hand of blackjack or put a few dollars down on his lucky number at the roulette wheel. Maybe you have made a small wager and hoped for a little luck yourself.
The exhilaration of winning a prize is fun, and when regulated carefully by our state and local governments, as most lotteries and casinos are, it is safe as well. The money risked often acts as a voluntary tax, which most states use to help fund schools or fill budget shortfalls.
Unfortunately, when it comes to online gaming, one man – the casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – has used his power and influence to undermine our local democracies, infringe on our rights under the Tenth Amendment, and make online gaming more dangerous by pushing sites that should operate under American laws overseas.
The issue comes down to the Constitution. States have historically policed their own gambling laws, as envisioned by the authors of the Tenth Amendment. For a number of years, when it came to online gambling, the Department of Justice (DOJ) was intent on dictating the rules. In late 2011, however, that changed.
After losing a court ruling, the DOJ granted a petition from New Jersey to allow online gambling for New Jersey residents. Delaware and Nevada soon followed suit. States like Illinois and Georgia then allowed their residents to purchase lottery tickets online.
Most people did not notice a difference in their daily lives, but for Mr. Adelson, seeking to protect his casino investments, it was a declaration of war. Since 2012, Mr. Adelson has spent untold millions trying to get the Restoration of America's Wire Act (RAWA), a federal bill that would delegitimize the legalization efforts of states like Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada, imposed into law.
RAWA is everything Americans hate about Washington. It's a perfect example of cronyism and a breach of federalism, which empowers citizens to decide how to live their lives and what regulations should exist through state and local elections.
This summer, Adelson hired a lobbyist, friendly with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in hopes of reversing the DOJ's position on the issue. He's looking to eliminate the competition.
At every turn, his endgame has been stymied. So now he has opened up a new front. One of Adelson's allies and a beneficiary of his political largess, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), recently sent a letter to the DOJ demanding that the Department reverse course and enact RAWA by dictatorial fiat. This would pull the rug out from under states that have created legal, regulated, and profitable gaming venues for their citizens. On Dec. 4, the Supreme Court also heard arguments on Christie vs. NCAA, which has the potential to roll over states' gambling laws.
The American people are tired of cronyism in Washington. They're tired of Congress picking through every aspect of their lives as though every action we take must first be validated by a vote on the floor of the Capitol. They are tired of congressmen being more concerned about their campaign coffers than our pocketbooks.
Over the past decade, conservatives have made a brave stand to protect the right of states and localities to decide whether or not to have online gaming. Billionaire opponents of federalism, however, have been using donor networks, loopholes, and potential executive-branch action to undermine our right to live our lives as we see fit. We shouldn't let them.
Jerry Rogers is the founder of Capitol Allies, an independent, nonpartisan effort that promotes free enterprise. He's the co-host of The LangerCast on the RELM Network. Twitter: @CapitolAllies.