The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) has been on the floors of Congress for more than a year, which is why its primary backer and political persuader Sheldon Adelson has decided to change course in Washington, DC, and bring on a new lobbying firm.
In its recent release made public on Tuesday, the US Senate’s Lobbying Disclosure Filing System identified Squire Patton Boggs, arguably the biggest and most influential lobbying firm in the country, as being on retainer for Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
Adelson is the billionaire founder of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. and has been leading the RAWA push to restore the Wire Act to its interpretation before the Department of Justice (DoJ) opined in 2011 that it only related to Internet sports betting, not online gambling.
The Federal Wire Act, first enacted in 1961, outlawed most types of interstate betting including gambling.
As technology evolved and online casinos and poker rooms like PokerStars and Full Tilt infiltrated web browsers, the legal understanding was that the Wire Act prevented such endeavors, eventually being policed with the passage of the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
That was until the DoJ changed its position and provided a pathway for states to reestablish iGaming.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz first introduced RAWA to the Senate and House of Representatives in March of 2014, and though some prominent lawmakers including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) have joined the cause, the majority of elected politicians have shunned the topic.
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Mississippi) spent 20 years in congress and was one of the signers of UIGEA, though that’s no surprising considering 98 of his 100 constituents did as well.
What might be surprising is Lott’s long relationship with the gambling industry, routinely taking campaign contributions during election cycles.
Advocacy group Public Citizen, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that lobbies for the “people’s voice in Washington, DC,” dubbed Lott as the gambling industry’s “most powerful congressional friend” in a report titled “Betting on Trent Lott: The casino gambling industry’s campaign contributions pays off in Congress.”
And though he was once in cahoots with casino corporations, that apparently doesn’t extend to online casinos, at least not with Adelson’s money dangling in front of him.
With a law degree, long history as a politician, and now career as a lobbyist, Trent Lott’s chosen endeavors do not have the most stellar reputations among those outside of Washington.
In November 2007, the 19-year senator abruptly resigned after a bill was passed that said lawmakers are forbidden from lobbying for a minimum of two years after leaving their seat.
The following month Lott announced he and former Sen. John Breaux (R-Louisiana) had formed their own lobbying firm.
The two would later join Squire Patton Boggs, and both are listed on this week’s filing to go to work for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
Lott’s previous lobbying efforts include working for Prudential Financial, FedEx, AT&T, and Goldman Sachs.
And while those Fortune 500 corporations are impressive, Lott’s most notable client is none other than Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin-controlled bank OAO Gazprombank.
Though a Gallup poll recently found Americans consider Russia to be the greatest threat to the nation, Lott’s firm had no issue accepting $450,000 to campaign on its behalf in Washington.
Money talks, and Sheldon Adelson has plenty of it. With one of the most well-known and well-connected political insiders available for hire working on his behalf, online poker and Internet gambling operators should definitely be concerned.