Politics and Gambling 2015: Match Made in Heaven or Arranged Marriage?

Posted on: December 29, 2015, 04:00h. 

Last updated on: November 9, 2015, 08:38h.

politics  and gambling 2015 Hillary Clinton 
Politics and gambling were front and center in the 2015 landscape. Hillary Clinton is the favorite to become the Democrat nominee for the 2016 presidential election, and her stance on gaming is still a bit murky.  (Image: Andrew Burton/Getty)

Politics and gambling are quite similar in theory. Both involve strategizing and calculating, taking odds into account, and deciding how to proceed in the best interest of one’s self.

When it comes to politicians addressing the issue of gambling, the topic becomes a bit more complex. Lawmakers understand that casinos bring the possibility of increased tax revenues that translate to additional monies that could fund state governments that are currently struggling to make ends meet.

Republicans and Democrats rarely agree on anything in today’s divisive political climate, and when it comes to gambling, these hardened foes aren’t exactly sure where to stand. Perhaps because online gaming, in particular, is neither liberal nor conservative, but a little of each, there’s no clear cut stance, no matter your party or viewpoint.

With all that in mind,we take a look back on this past year’s struggles with politics and gambling, and what seems to lie ahead in 2016.

The Race for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

It’s shaping up to be Hillary Clinton versus the still-uncertain GOP nominee next November. Whether it’s Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, Florida Senator Marco Rubio or another Republican candidate, one thing is almost for certain, and that is Clinton will be their opponent.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary’s past in regards to gambling is a rather mixed bag. Then-New York Senator Clinton voted in favor of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, a bill that essentially made online betting illegal.

However, two years later, Clinton said she was in favor of investigating how online gambling can be properly regulated. The Democratic front runner hasn’t addressed the emerging concerns of daily fantasy sports (DFS) as of yet.

Donald Trump

The surprising GOP leader is unsurprisingly perhaps gambling’s best bet for expansion of casinos, both land-based and online. As a former casino owner himself, the Donald is likely to do little or nothing to block any federal legislation that would restrict states’ rights from deciding their own gaming laws.

Marco Rubio

Rubio has issued rather contrasting views on gambling. The first-term senator co-sponsored the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in 2015, a bill that would outlaw all forms of online gambling.

However, he also hinted this October that RAWA might need an amendment for Internet poker, since it has elements of skill, but he’s remained steadfast against expanding gambling at land-based venues.

Dr. Ben Carson

The former Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon has remained quiet on the issue of gambling, and since he has no political or gambling background, his record is vacant.

Speaker Paul Ryan 

Though House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) isn’t an advocate for gambling or online casinos, he isn’t necessarily against the market. The nine-term congressman opted not to vote on UIGEA in 2006 and also chose not to sign RAWA even though 21 of his Republican colleagues did.

The one concern with Ryan among gambling supporters is that he’s hired Dave Hoppe as his chief of staff. Hoppe is a Washington, DC, lobbyist who has worked on behalf of billionaire Sheldon Adelson.

Sheldon’s Crusade

No man was more active in 2015 political gambling legislation than billionaire and long-time GOP supporter Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas Sands chairman is no stranger to politics or Congress, and definitely knows what the expression “money talks” is all about.

Worth roughly $30 billion, Sheldon’s made it his personal mission to ban online casinos by using his political clout among GOP lawmakers to push RAWA in the Senate and House of Representatives.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) obliged and introduced the bill to their respective chambers, though it’s generated little action. Don’t expect RAWA to magically disappear anytime soon, the billionaire stating he’ll spend “whatever it takes” to stop Internet gambling. But it doesn’t appear to be threatening the shutdown of the three legal states, either.

2016 will be an important year not only due to the impending presidential election, but in part due to the rise of daily fantasy contests. The return of PokerStars to New Jersey will also bring added attention to online gaming.

One thing you can bet on is that politics and gambling will continue to be a close, if slightly odd, couple.