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Matt Mackowiak: Abandoning principles to please a Republican billionaire?

December 27, 2018

Is President Trump’s own Department of Justice poised to undermine his commitment to drain the swamp?

Unfortunately, with news that the agency is preparing to reverse a near decade-old policy that allows states to set their own Internet gambling laws, it seems that it’s certainly a possibility.

Plowing over states’ rights with respect to iGaming has been the long-term goal of casino owner Sheldon Adelson, who over the past several years has waged a one-man, multi-million-dollar campaign to empower the federal government to shut down the so-called electronic casinos.

Few, if any, believed that it would be the Trump administration of all White Houses that would consider giving him the crony New Year’s gift that he wanted, and yet here we are.

Adelson, the owner of the Sands Casino empire, is pushing for the Justice Department to short-circuit states’ constitutional rights for the seemingly selfish purpose of reducing competition for Las Vegas and its hotel owners. To that end, Adelson has employed an army of lobbyists and created a grass-tops organization dedicated to only one thing - reversing the DOJ decision.

The one-man show has had its allies introduce legislation in Congress, but the bill has hit a wall on almost every front. At a hearing before the House Government Oversight Committee, members of Congress tore the Adelson effort to shreds.

Conservatives noted the hypocrisy of Republicans advocating giving more power for the federal government. Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) and then-Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who is currently the president’s acting chief of staff, cited concerns about the bill’s effect on state’s rights. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) took their point a step further, questioning whether the federal government passing an anti-Tenth Amendment online gambling prohibition could create the stepping stone to sweeping gun control legislation. Liberals also discussed the obvious reality that banning state-regulated online gaming would drive more traffic to unregulated online casinos, something nobody wants.

With the bill stalled in Congress, Adelson turned to the executive branch for assistance.

He pressed then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse the policy, but Sessions was forced to recuse himself on the matter. As most observers in the political arena know, though, Adelson hasn’t become one of the richest men in the world by accepting “no” for an answer. He pressed ahead and now appears to finally be making headway. It has been reported that the Department of Justice is preparing to reverse its 2011 opinion legalizing online gaming. For what? To please a Republican billionaire? Why would Republicans take power away from the states and grant it to the federal government?

Such a move would pull the rug out from under a dozen states that have created jobs and economic growth based on the previous ruling.It would undermine the Constitution and the ability of states to govern themselves, all while suppressing the White House’s approval ratings by bringing about calls of crony capitalism for catering to the desires of the GOP’s biggest donor.

Now is the time for Justice Department to reconsider. DOJ should be cleaning out corruption in our political system, not encouraging it.

Matt Mackowiak is president of Potomac Strategy Group. He’s a Republican consultant, a Bush administration and Bush-Cheney re-election campaign veteran and former press secretary to two U.S. senators.

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