Members of the House of Representatives are reintroducing a bill that would effectively ban online gambling in the U.S., which billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has strongly supported for years.
The Restoration of America’s Wire Act, spearheaded by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, would “restore” a decades-old federal ban on some gambling operations by extending it to include Internet gaming, the National Journal said.
Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, is introducing the bill with six GOP cosponsors and the backing of one Democrat, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. The three-page measure is the same as the one Chaffetz introduced last year, the report said.
The reintroduction renews a long-standing fight between Internet gambling sites, brick-and-mortar casino owners, and family-values advocates, according to the Journal.
“Putting an app on every phone that allows people to gamble wherever they are is not a good idea, ” Chaffetz said. He warned that minors can sign up and start placing bets without their parents even noticing, the website said.
Among the ban’s most influential backers is Sheldon Adelson, who wields considerable clout among Republicans via massive campaign contributions. In late 2013, the octogenarian began the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, a lobbying group that formed as a growing number of statehouses across the country were lowering restrictions on online betting, the Journal said.
But Adelson’s detractors argue that the wealthy political donor is singularly motivated by a desire to protect his brick-and-mortar casino empire from digital competitors. Pro-gambling groups have also clashed with Adelson, accusing him of single-handedly propping up an unpopular legislative campaign, according to the report.
Adelson has vowed to “spend whatever it takes” to stop online gambling, calling it a “societal train wreck waiting to happen.” Ads from his group have attempted to link online gambling to funding terrorism, the Journal said.
Chaffetz confirmed that he met with Adelson when the casino magnate came to Washington last month. Several reports have indicated that Adelson met with a majority of lawmakers who sit on the House Judiciary Committee, which will have jurisdiction over Chaffetz’s bill, according to the Journal.
“He’s an active player [in the debate], and I’m glad he’s supporting this bill, ” Chaffetz said, while quickly adding that Adelson had never funded any of his campaigns.