Marco Rubio Is a New Co-Sponsor for Anti-Gambling RAWA Bill, Defends Stance
On Thursday, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio defended his support of the anti-online gambling bill, Restore America’s Wire Act. Senator Rubio also said his support of RAWA had nothing to do with his run for president or any alleged desire to solicit Sheldon Adelson’s political donations.
The Washington Post has reported several times this year on Marco Rubio’s attempts to court Sheldon Adelson, who is expected to be second only to the Koch Brothers in giving political contributions to GOP candidates and causes in 2016. Sheldon Adelson spent almost $100 million during the 2012 election cycle, and his money could prop up the candidacy of any one of the 12 (and counting) Republican presidential hopefuls. The 2016 presidential campaign is expected to involve $5 billion in spending, so having access to such funding would be a boon for any candidate.
Cosponsor’s Restore America’s Wire Act
On the previous Wednesday night, Marco Rubio signed on as a co-sponsor of Restore America’s Wire Act. That decision, after having a year to have done so, raised eyebrows among political pundits and long-time Beltway observers.
At a campaign stop through New Hampshire, Marco Rubio defended his action. In a press statement which suggested either naivete or narcissism, Sen. Rubio said, “People buy into my agenda. I don’t buy into theirs. When I run for office, I tell people where I stand….My stands are not influenced by my contributors; I hope my stands influence my contributors.”
Hearkening back to his time as Speaker of the House in Florida, the senator said he has “a long history of opposing the expansion of gambling.”
Criticism of Online Gambling
He also pointed to online gambling as a way to mechanize gambling and make it an everyday part of one’s schedule, which makes it particularly dangerous. Rubio added, “I believe that, for the most part, especially that kind of gambling, is a tax on the poor and does little to develop the economy.”
Sheldon Adelson’s Issue
The points made by Rubio dovetail fairly closely with those made by Sheldon Adelson himself. Sheldon Adelson seeks to ban online gambling throughout the United States. Mobile casinos and online casinos are seen as a long-term financial threat to traditional brick-and-mortar casinos. Mr. Adelson, on the other hand, is the world’s most financially successful casino mogul. No one in the history of the world has made more money from gamblers.
Adelson says he wants to protest online gamblers from predatory business operators, which is his ostensible motivation for banning online and mobile casinos. He has stated he would spend whatever it takes to have online gambling banned. To that end, Restore America’s Wire Act has been introduced to Congress in 2014 and 2015. Rep. Jason Chaffets (R-Utah) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) have sponsored the bill in the House and Senate, respectively. Senator Graham is also running for president, so he presumably would achieve the greatest favor by doing Adelson’s bidding. Multiple national papers have suggested Adelson was instrumental in the framing of RAWA.
Rubio’s Dislike of Land Casinos
While certain parts of Marco Rubio’s politics seem to coincide with Sheldon Adelson, his more general stance against gambling could hurt his chances of receiving funding from the founder of Las Vegas Sands Corporation. Marco Rubio has been critical of the land-based casino industry in the past and tried to stop the expansion of offline gaming in Florida. At the time, Rubio traced his dislike of casinos to the six years of his childhood which was spent living in Las Vegas.
In recounting his childhood, Rubio likened gambling to “fool’s gold”. That was in 2009, when running for president seemed like a distant hope for Rubio. Here in the early summer of 2015, he is striking a different chord.
Not the Right Approach for USA
In a more measured response on Thursday, Rubio said of Nevada’s gambling industry, “They have a right in Las Vegas to have any gambling they want. They have laws. They have legislators. They can vote on what they want or don’t want. In Florida, I have a long history of opposing expansion of gambling. When you talk about online gambling, that comes into Florida. That is potentially people, including young people, who are going to go online and gamble and lose money. I just don’t believe that’s the right approach for our country.”
The distinction being made contains logic, so Rubio might be able to skirt the issue for the time being. It would have been instructive to have asked Marco Rubio whether he opposes expansion in South Florida. At present, the legislature of Florida is debating whether to expand land-based gambling to South Florida, where it would allow for 2 major integrated casino-resort licenses. The two likeliest recipients of those licenses would be Genting Limited, a gaming company out of Malaysia, and Las Vegas Sands Corps–Sheldon Adelson’s gaming enterprise.
Of course, if Marco Rubio is for legal gambling in Nevada and he’s against expanded gambling in Florida, he is essentially calling for state’s rights in the matter. Restore America’s Wire Act takes away a state’s lawmakers’ right to decide whether they want online gambling or not, no matter if Jason Chaffetz or Lindsey Graham argue to the contrary. That is why so many libertarian Republicans have spoken out against the RAWA bill: Ron Paul, Rand Paul, and Grover Norquist among them.
All GOP lawmakers who speak of state’s rights and then vote for the RAWA bill must deal with the same pretzel logic. That is why Capitol Hill prognosticators have predicted Restore America’s Wire Act has perhaps a 7% chance of passing in 2015, despite another GOP presidential candidate signing on to make it a law.
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