When Mitt Romney chose his vice presidential running mate there was hope by many in the industry that he would choose Ron Paul, Chris Christie or someone else who is a little more open on social issues and particularly gambling. But instead Romney chose Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, who is effectively Romney’s clone. On every issue from abortion to stem cell research to gay marriage Ryan has voted the same way as Romney, i.e. against it, and for gambling expansion Ryan never really voted one way or another, although he did vote in favor of banning credit card usage for online gambling in 2003 and he abstained from voting on pro-gambling bills in 2006.
There’s no question that Romney had zero intentions of ever choosing a moderate as his running mate but in failing to do so he likely killed his chances of winning over the undecided voters who may have been leaning Romney’s way if he was a little more flexible on social issues. Many electoral experts are suggesting that Romney’s pick was “a Hail Mary” because Ryan, as head of the House Budget Committee proposed a budget that would overhaul Medicare and food stamps and those proposals weren’t necessarily items that Romney agreed with. But at a rally recently, Romney said that both of them were on the same page with Medicare reform. More importantly Ryan voted with his party on bills over 95% of the time and has given no indication that he plans to oppose Romney on any issues. Ryan, like Romney also proposes huge tax cuts to wealthy corporations on the backs of the middle class. Consequently, Ryan will just be a yes man to the Presidential hopeful which certainly won’t help online gambling interests since Romney was clear as day at a speech in Nevada that he opposed any gambling expansion.
More proof that the two candidates will not be friends to online gambling is their cozy relationship with Sands owner Sheldon Adelson. At a meeting this week Adelson told Romney and Ryan said he’s willing to spend up to $100 million to defeat the Democrats in this election. But of course with that kind of support comes an obligation. So if the Republicans do win the election then Adelson’s desire to kill online gambling will become part of their platform. As recently as 3 months ago Adelson made a speech at the University of Nevada that he believes online gambling will cannibalize brick and mortar casino play; that those involved in online gambling don’t really make a lot of money so if casinos like his are forced to offer online gambling he’ll eventually lose money; and strangest of all said that he opposes online poker on moral grounds. Adelson never expanded on that but no doubt he still believes in John Kyl’s old “click the mouse, lose the house” philosophy. It also seems that Adelson may be having a change of heart about the business that made him a billionaire. Adelson was the first to announce that the Sands would no longer give out any comps for casino play and instead would charge market price for everything.
“No more comped rooms. No food and beverage. No showroom credits. We’re selling rooms,” Adelson said in a press conference in 2011. Apparently actual gambling is down at the casino since comps were cut at the Sands but Adelson doesn’t really care. There is still a high demand for the rooms because of its location and the adjacent conference centre, the sight of this years G2E conference. So as far as Adelson is concerned if all gambling were eliminated he wouldn’t lose sleep over it since his other ventures would still keep him very comfortable.
So gamblers have an ominous choice. They can vote for Obama whose DoJ was instrumental in the Black Friday arrests of 2 years ago or they can vote for the Romney-Ryan ticket which will oppose any bills that expand gambling and who will be in bed with a contributor who will spare no expense to ensuring online gambling is stopped in its tracks.
At a recent conference in Niagara Falls, I asked Larry Walters, a first amendment attorney who is also considered an expert on the online gambling industry who he would recommend gamblers vote for if their main concern is the legalization and regulation of online gambling stateside.
“With Romney we know what we’re getting. He has gone on the record that he opposes any expansion and access to gambling including online gambling. So anyone who is interested in expanding into the area of online gambling would be foolish to support Romney. We don’t necessarily know what we’re getting with Obama since he’s never gone on the record opposing online gambling expansion.”
Walters admitted that Black Friday is a black mark against Obama for gambling concerns but he also said that Obama has done nothing to make regulations any tougher for the industry nor has he made any attempts to expand the UIGEA restrictions. Walters also suggested that Obama hasn’t introduced any new federal legislation during his first term and most importantly that it was under Obama’s rule that the DoJ’s reverse opinion was made that they believed that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting so could not be used to stop online poker or casinos. If Romney does become elected there is a chance that the new DoJ could reverse that opinion.
If I’m wrong and Paul Ryan actually supports online gambling then he can score big political points by making that announcement public and convincing Romney to come aboard. After all one must remember that poker players almost single handedly defeated Jim Leach in his bid for re-election in 2006 so pro-gambling voters can help him win crucial votes in this election too. But it’s safe to say that like Romney he opposes gambling expansion and will never come out in favor of any vice or social issue that most Americans agree with and enjoy. That’s unfortunate but it does make an online gambler’s choice a little easier come election time.
Contact Hartley via email at Hartley[at]osga[dot]com.
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