Ron Paul has come out strongly against a federal online poker ban, saying that the legislation is only being considered because it would please prominent Republican donor Sheldon Adelson.
Paul, a former Republican Representative from Texas who is known for his strong libertarian beliefs, says that such a ban would be an example of “cronyism” designed to placate Adelson, the CEO and chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corp.
“Congress may soon vote on legislation outlawing Internet gambling,” Paul wrote in his weekly column for the Ron Paul Institute.
“It is an open secret, at least inside the Beltway, that this legislation is being considered as a favor to billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson. Mr. Adelson, who is perhaps best known for using his enormous wealth to advance a pro-war foreign policy, is now using his political influence to turn his online competitors into criminals.”
Paul acknowledged that supporters of such a ban have given “a number of high-minded reasons” for wanting to ban online gambling that have nothing to do with Adelson’s support for the measure. But he says that such a ban wouldn’t stop Americans from gambling online at all.
“Some claim that legalizing online gambling will enrich criminals and even terrorists,” Paul wrote. “But criminalizing online casinos will not eliminate the demand for online casinos. Instead, passage of this legislation will likely guarantee that the online gambling market is controlled by criminals. Thus, it is those who support outlawing online gambling who may be aiding criminals and terrorists.”
The battle over an online poker and gambling ban is currently centered on a single piece of legislation: the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which is widely believed to have originated with Adelson and his lobbying group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Introduced to the Senate and House of Representatives by Republican members in March, the legislation hasn’t seen much movement yet, though its prospects could improve next year when Republicans take control of the Senate.
One of the stranger arguments in favor of an online gambling ban is that stopping states from regulating Internet poker and other games would actually protect states’ rights. Paul outlined this argument, but ultimately rejected it.
“Their argument is that citizens of states that ban Internet gambling may easily get around those laws by accessing online casinos operating in states where online gambling is legalized,” Paul explained.
“Even if the argument had merit that allowing states to legalize online gambling undermines laws in other states, it would not justify federal legislation on the issue. Nowhere in the Constitution is the federal government given any authority to regulate activities such as online gambling. Arguing that ‘states rights’ justifies creating new federal crimes turns the Tenth Amendment, which was intended to limit federal power, on its head.”
Paul also rejected the idea that a ban could be about the morality of gambling, since it doesn’t impact land-based casinos, and expressed concerns that such legislation could increase government surveillance of the Internet.
“The proposed ban on Internet gambling is a blatantly unconstitutional infringement on our liberties that will likely expand the surveillance state,” Paul summarized. “Worst of all, it is all being done for the benefit of one powerful billionaire.”