Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, is the man behind one of the most-hypocritical bills in history: the Restoration of America's Wire Act (RAWA).
The name is a fancy term for legislation that seeks to ban online gambling in the United States, while letting land-based casinos flourish.
Adelson claims a righteous quest, one that will keep gambling off smartphones, tablets, and PCs in order to protect gambling addicts. But then there's the fact that Adelson has accumulated a $31 billion fortune through a Las Vegas Sands empire that does the very same thing he supposedly wants to prevent.
What's the real reason behind his anti-online casino crusade? What chance does RAWA have of passing? Let's take a closer look at this matter, including the dirty secret behind this legislation.
The reality is that the 83-year-old billionaire fears online gambling will become a threat to his brick-and-mortar casino business. And rather than join other casinos that are jumping into the online casino realm, Adelson is doing everything he can to resist the trend with RAWA.
Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada have already legalized internet gambling, and they feature online casinos and poker sites. Over a dozen more U.S. states have had serious discussions about legalizing online gambling. But RAWA would not only prevent these states from regulating online gaming, but also reverse the current laws in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.
In order to make his wish come true, Adelson has donated millions to Republican campaigns in hopes that they'll return the favor by pushing RAWA through. So far, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), and Gov. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have diligently tried to get Congressional members to look at RAWA, but to no avail.
Many believe that this is a perfect example of crony capitalism, where elected government officials curry favor to rich political donors. But it hasn't stopped Chaffetz, Graham, Rubo, and other politicians from working to benefit Adelson's online gambling ban.
This includes Sen. Tom Cottom (R-AR), who was elected to Congress through the Senate Republican Leadership Fund — the very same group that Sheldon Adelson donated $20 million to in September. The day after the donation, Cotton, Graham, and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced Senate bill, S.3376, near-identical legislation to RAWA.
So far, Adelson has failed to gain any traction with RAWA. But he has renewed hope due to the upcoming Lame Duck session for Congress, which ends on January 3, 2017. Cotton, Graham, and Lee will attach RAWA to a Congressional spending bill that must pass.
If the budget legislation passes with RAWA attached, then online gambling will be banned in the U.S. And this means that the only type of internet gambling allowed in America will be offshore and unregulated sites.
While offshore internet casinos have served Americans for two decades, many would like to see a regulated environment in the U.S., where online casinos can engage in mainstream advertising. This won't happen, though, with RAWA in place.
Many Congress members and states' rights advocates have argued against RAWA because it's a clear violation of the 10th amendment, which reads, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
So far, this has been enough to keep RAWA from being treated as a serious issue. But with Adelson providing over $100 million in Republican funding this year, and S.3376 being attached to a spending bill, RAWA remains a threat for the foreseeable future.