Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Politics of Online Gambling

The politics surrounding online gambling in the United States is getting a bit more interesting lately.  It's no secret big money gets legislation passed at the State level as well as at the Federal level.  Initially several tribes including Pala, Pechanga, Agua Caliente, United Auburn, Morongo, Rincon as well as many others began throwing money at State legislators in hopes of getting legislation passed that would legalize Online Poker.  There's been some in-fighting and disputes about what this legislation should look like.  But for the most part things keep moving forward.

Initially many tribes took a stance against online gambling or tried to carve out exceptions so that only tribes could have online gambling.  This tactic has seemed to have failed and so it's now become if you can't beat them join them.

Currently there are two pending bills each supported by rival factions to try to legalize online poker in California.  There seems to be some consensus that perhaps with enough time and money for the politicians the two bills could perhaps be merged if the rival factions can come to some agreements on key aspects of the bills.  Most still seems to think online poker in California is still at least 1 to 2 years away from becoming a reality.

In the meantime some States like New Jersey and Delaware have already legalized internet gambling leading some to speculate perhaps the Federal Government would also eventually legalize internet gambling.

And then something that may have been unexpected happened.  Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina introduced legislation that would essentially make internet gambling illegal.  Obviously this would derail efforts in California to make online poker legal.  Senator Diane Feinstein of California is a co-sponsor of this legislation.  This has ruffled the feathers of several Indian Tribes who have been throwing money at trying to make online poker legal.

So why this sudden interest from Lindsay Graham and Diane Feinstein in making online gambling illegal?  Turns out Las Vegas Sands owner and Billionaire Sheldon Adelson who hopes to buy the next Republican President urged Lindsay to introduce the bill.  Mr. Adelson is extremely concerned that internet gambling would cut into the profits of his brick and mortar casinos.

Feinstein is likely an opportunist in all this.  She can probably sense that by supporting a ban on internet gambling she will soon receive contributions from Indian Tribes in California hoping they can get her to change her mind.  On the other hand any time a billionaire wants something done it can be quite beneficial to one's political coffers to go along with it.  No doubt Lindsay Graham will benefit from introducing the ban.  For Feinstein it's a win-win.  She will either get money from Mr. Adelson or from the Indians Tribes and most likely from both.

Indian Tribes in California are now going up against Billionaire Sheldon Adelson.  Better open up those check books.  But don't fret just yet.  The bill would have to pass the Senate which is probably going to be difficult.  If it manages to get out of the Senate it would then have to pass the House and be signed by the President in order to become law.  This will take time.

It's turning into quite an interesting poker game with Sheldon Adelson now buying in and raising the ante.  The question now is if the forces that support online gambling have enough money to go up against the big boys.  Other big casino owners such as Steve Wynn also oppose online gambling.

Remember who tried to block Indian Gaming for a while?  Las Vegas.  What eventually happened?  Vegas backed ventures ended up building and investing in many Indian Casinos.  Who is trying to block online gambling now?  Las Vegas.

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