Online Poker: Republican Platform

A.G. Moore 8/31/2012

A lot of people were surprised to see online gambling directly addressed in the Republican Platform. There have been stirrings in recent years, especially within the Libertarian wing of the party, that indicated a tolerance for online poker, if not for other forms of gambling. So a lot of observers were left scratching their heads as they noted the inclusion of the potentially contentious item in the Romney Campaign’s official platform statement.

Besides Romney’s personal objections to gambling in general—Mormons are forbidden to gamble—the question arises, why pick a fight with an already riled poker constituency? While the number of voters who would be moved by this issue alone is perhaps small, yet in a close election every vote counts.

Perhaps Romney is making a principled stand. Etch-a-Sketch Romney, not likely. A reasonable observer would look to another actor in this poker prohibition. And one does not have to look too far behind Romney to see a powerful opponent of online poker: Sheldon Adelson. Adelson’s gambling empire is founded in what is known as brick and mortar operations. His expansion of land-based casino style gambling continues unabated. His current international casino interests include Singapore, Macao and Spain.

Adelson has stated that he has a moral objection to online gaming because there is no way to insure that underage gamblers will not participate. It is certainly not legitimate to ascribe a motive to his opposition: this is something that is knowable only to himself. However, it is legitimate to consider that his interest in preventing the legalization of online gambling was persuasive to beneficiaries of his largess.

He has publicly stated that he is willing to spend $100,000,000 to see the Republican party, particularly the Republican presidential candidate, prevail in the November 2012 elections. What does that kind of investment get you?

Possibly, though not necessarily, a brief paragraph, somewhere on page 32 of the Republican platform statement (see: http://pokerati.com/tag/doj/), which takes a stand against online poker. It’s hard to say if the people who drafted this paragraph were doing so to please Sheldon Adelson, but I think any reasonable person would be left to ponder the following question:if Sheldon Adelson hadn’t pledged to spend $100,000,000 on Republican candidates in the current election cycle, would the platform committee bothered to have include online poker in its statement? Would they have risked alienating a small but energized part of the electorate?

I wonder.

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