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Cronyism Alive and Well In New Congress With Reintroduction of Gaming Bill

Despite an expanded Republican majority, crony capitalism is off to a running start in the House of Representatives. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) 88% (R-UT) fired the starting pistol by reintroducing legislation sought by a Las Vegas billionaire that would prohibit states from legalizing online gaming for citizens within their own borders.

Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Sands Casino, has openly bragged he would “spend whatever it takes” to prohibit states from legalizing online gaming — a growing form of competition for his brick and mortar empire. Three states have already made gaming legal for their residents and that number is expected to grow this year. With the growing threat of competition the billionaire did what any crony would do — turned to his friends in government to change the rules of the game and as a big donor, not surprisingly, he found some members of Congress willing to champion his cause.

Last year, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) 88% (R-UT) introduced the legislation written by Adelson lobbyists into Congress. The bill hit a brick wall when nearly 20 groups lead by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and FreedomWorks voiced their opposition. Despite much Orwellian pot banging out of Adelson’s high priced K-Street team and an attempt to jam the bill into the “cromnibus”, the bill died at the end of Congress.

Like most billionaires, Adelson isn’t accustomed to being told “no”— especially from the folks he just spent tens of millions of dollars to keep in power. So, Adelson is back at it. Neil McCabe at TownHall.com reported that Adelson received a private briefing from some Republican members and staff on the House Judiciary Committee — a meeting that was characterized by some in attendance as “both strategy session and update for the billionaire.”

Within a few short weeks of this meeting Chaffetz reintroduced the House version of the bill and has pledged to hold hearings on the “dangers” of Internet gambling. Most believe Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) 60% (R-SC) will reintroduce the Senate version next week. Graham, whose fledgling presidential campaign could live or die on Adelson’s cash has been working overtime for the casino mogul’s cause. Graham shoehorned a misleading Internet gambling question into the Senate confirmation hearing of Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch last week. Graham claimed to have evidence that Internet gaming is fueling terrorism but his legislation doesn’t the real problem of foreign sites. New Jersey’s legal Internet gaming isn’t funding terrorism, but sites based in Antiqua or Gibraltar probably are and are untouched by Graham’s bill.

The maddening truth is that House and Senate Republicans have little incentive to stand up to the man who is fueling their campaigns on their own. It will require a watchful eye and pressure from grassroots Republicans to protect Internet freedom and the Tenth Amendment. Success at stopping this last year was, well, last year. It’s a new year and a new deck but the same crooked dealer. Here we go again.

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