Sheldon Adelson’s hard-nosed attack on online gambling seems to be snowballing.
But could his efforts to persuade the government to outlaw all forms of Internet gambling really pay off?
You might have thought so after news broke that U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., last week co-sponsored a bill that could carry out the mega-donor’s bidding.
The bill is a beefed-up version of a proposal from Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. But Heller wants to preserve online poker as a valid revenue source, and Graham wants to ban it all.
Since the Department of Justice in 2011 ruled that states could roll out online gambling within their borders, three have seized the opportunity: Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.
Poker experts say the odds of a Graham-sponsored bill crashing online gambling aren’t very good.
“It’ll be a tough row to hoe,” said Chris Grove, a Las Vegas-based poker writer with onlinepokerreport.com.
For one: Federal legislation would force those states with regulated online gambling platforms to roll back all the work they put in to make it happen.
Further, a bill proposal in its early stages could force states on the fence to make a decision.
Graham’s intentions aside, the mere existence of Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling could accelerate the pace of regulation at the state level, making it difficult to establish a federal law.
“The logic is that Adelson’s federal moves, while ultimately quixotic, are enough to coalesce fragmented players at the state level who may be on the fence about regulation,” he said.
We’ve seen that happen in California, where it’s been a battle to get all stakeholders on the same page, Grove said, but the threat of the feds coming in and shutting the whole thing down before the state even gets started has motivated the players to unite against the same enemy.
So Graham’s bill could morph into a Catch-22.
But there’s also a loophole to all this for Adelson and his strongest supporters: The legislative process takes time.
It often takes federal bills two or three rides around the Senate before they become anything. Graham’s push is better than nothing.
And let’s not kid ourselves: Graham has a financial incentive to sponsor the bill.
Thinkprogress.org recently reported the Adelsons supported Graham’s campaign with contributions and $1,000-a-plate fundraiser at the Venetian.
Graham is seeking re-election in November. It makes sense he will do whatever he can to get on the good side of the guy with all the cash.