Sheldon Adelson’s D.C. Cronies Take Aim at Online Gaming

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, with the entirely coincidental guidance of Sheldon Adelson’s lobbyist Darryl Nirenberg, reintroduced to the House of Representatives on February 4 the Restoration of America’s Wire Act. (As opposed to the Restoration of America’s The Wire Act, where our lobbyist is feverishly pitching McNulty and The Bunk fan fiction to David Simon.)

The legislation—to be presented to the Senate by Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who also received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from Adelson—would close a loophole in the Federal Wire Act opened in 2011 when the Department of Justice let states decide for themselves whether they wanted to allow online gaming.

Chaffetz, Graham and the other supporters of the legislation cite the usual what-about-the-children moralizing, with Graham even committing to some halfhearted hand-waving about legal online gaming somehow aiding and abetting terrorists. Just garden-variety 21st-century politics in America, to be sure. Below the surface, though, it appears to be part of Adelson’s proxy war against MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment—two proponents of online wagering … and the two biggest competitors to Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp.

While it would ban online sports and poker betting, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act would allow carve-outs for online horse racing (a moot point in Nevada) and fantasy sports wagering. Which is like enacting a federal ban on Tom Petty songs, but still allowing the Sam Smith tune to get radio airplay.

Let’s say you live in Nevada and play in daily real-money fantasy leagues such as those promoted by or It’s late in the fourth and Johnny Manziel is leading the Cleveland Browns downfield. Because you’re terrible at drafting but still improbably lucky, you have Manziel on your team. If he scores, you’re in the catbird seat to win $100 in your league. This, in the eyes of the U.S. government, would be legal.

If, however, you wagered that same $100 on the Browns plus the points from the comfort of your living-room couch, you’d have to do it through some questionable offshore account, because betting apps like the ones from Station Casinos and William Hill would be banned. Because, clearly, these are two wildly different types of gambling.

On the bright side, if you’re someone who prefers physical as opposed to virtual betting, the legislation—as it stands now—would not restrict you to placing wagers only at Adelson’s Venetian and Palazzo sportsbooks. Then again, things can change in committee.

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