POLITICO: Lindsey Graham does Sheldon Adelson a solid on online gaming

March 19, 2014

By Anna Palmer and Burgess Everett | 3/19/14 4:17 PM EDT

Sen. Lindsey Graham is giving a little help to his friend — Republican mega donor Sheldon Adelson.

Graham is expected to introduce a bill to ban Internet gambling as soon as next week, according to sources working on the issue.

Adelson launched a coalition late last year to ban online gaming. The billionaire casino mogul promised to use his fortune to push the issue, arguing that it is not good for society and could hurt the traditional business model of casinos.

Adelson has not been a long-time Graham supporter, but in 2013 he and his wife Miriam — who have spread their money widely among Republicans — cut checks for $15,600 in campaign contributions to Graham.

A spokesman for Graham said the senator had no plans to publicly unveil the bill this week and noted that the Adelsons’ contributions paled in comparison to the senator’s $8 million in fundraising this cycle, according to OpenSecrets.

Historically, Internet gambling has not been a foremost concern of the deal-cutting Graham, though he has been working to beef up his conservative credentials in advance of the 2014 election. For instance, last year he took the lead on a federal 20-week abortion ban bill widely supported by social conservatives.

Draft language has been circulating on Capitol Hill and K Street this week that would ban online gaming with the exception of fantasy games and horse racing. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would likely oppose any legislation that included horse racing, which is a key industry in his home state of Kentucky. A spokesman for McConnell said he had not seen the legislation.

Adelson’s aggressive move to try and reignite the issue that had withered in recent years has created a firestorm of lobbying activity.

The Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling applauded the move.

“We support and applaud all efforts to restore the long-standing interpretation that the Wire Act prohibits Internet gambling. It’s common sense that putting a virtual casino in the pocket of every American with a phone is bad public policy.”

Meanwhile the Coalition for Consumer & Online Protection — which is backed by casinos like MGM Grand — believes the ban would put consumers at risk and violate states rights.

“Banning all online gaming nationwide, as this bill effectively does, would put American consumers at serious risk,” said coalition spokeswoman and former Rep. Mary Bono in a statement. “It is impossible to stand in the way of the Internet; instead, we should embrace and shape these new technologies in a way that is safe for consumers.”