Does aspiring to the highest office of the land require to you to sell your soul to a casino mogul? It sure seems that way for Texas Gov. Rick Perry who, at least rhetorically, was formerly one of America’s leading voices for federalism. Over the past four years, he has forcefully advocated for powerful states and a limited federal government. But when billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Las Vegas Sands casino empire, was looking for a hand-up, Mr. Perry quickly trampled on the rights of states to offer Adelson some help.
Perry has argued that states should be “laboratories of innovation” and demanded the election of leaders “who devolve power to the states, not rob them of it.” That didn’t stop him from signing a letter demanding that the federal government outlaw the ability of states to legalize Internet gaming. Coincidentally, this is the same position of Mr. Adelson, who has given hundreds of millions of dollars to GOP candidates and has pledged to “spend whatever it takes” to enact such a ban. You don’t have to be a math major to see the expediency of the two positions. As they say in Vegas, “It’s all about the Benjamins.”
Exercising their rights under federalism to be “laboratories of innovation,” New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada have legalized Internet gaming for citizens within their borders. Sensing the popularity of such websites is a threat to his land-based casinos, Adelson started the Coalition Against Internet Gambling, hiring a team of lobbyists and a roster of former-elected officials as spokesmen (some were supporters of both federalism and gambling when they served in office but, not anymore).
Perry has written a letter as has another states’ rights advocate, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, saying federal regulation of the Internet is needed for gambling.
“When gambling occurs in the virtual world, the ability of states to determine whether the activity should be available to its citizens and under what conditions and to control the activity accordingly is left subject to the vagaries of the technological marketplace. This seriously compromises the ability of states to control gambling within their borders.” Talk about shoehorning an argument to try to make it appear that you are being consistent philosophically when you clearly have not only reversed course but are retreating with alacrity.
It’s amazing what the desire for a couple million dollars can do.
Perry is not alone. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jason Chaffetz have introduced Adelson’s bill. Incredibly at the bill’s introductory press conference, Rep. Chaffetz argued that the states must come to the federal government for permission to legalize internet gaming within their borders. This is the exact argument Rick Perry, the Tea Party, and most conservatives, including Mr. Chaffetz have been fighting against for years. Does Jason Chaffetz now think the states need the permission of the federal government to expand gun rights or lower taxes as well?
Federalism does not have an asterix. New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada have all legalized Internet gaming for their own citizens. Others like Massachusetts are looking to do the same thing. The federal government should not trample on these experiments for any reason much less for the blatantly crony reason of protecting the bottom line of a big donor.
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