Republican Senator and presidential candidate Lindsey Graham was raised in a small apartment in the back of his parents’ liquor store/restaurant/pool hall in South Carolina. He attended the University of South Carolina and in 1977 became the first in his family to graduate from college. He went on to attend the University of South Carolina School of Law. In 1981, after obtaining his J.D., Graham began his career in the United States Air Force, where he served as both a prosecutor and a defense attorney. Graham never married and has no children, although he helped to raise his 13-year-old sister after his parents passed away.
Graham was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 1992, and then to the United States House of Representatives in 1995. He represented South Carolina’s 3rd congressional district in the House for four terms, from 1995-2003. Then in 2002, Graham won his Senate seat, which he has now held for three terms.
In March 2014 Graham began a push to ban online gambling on a federal level across the US. He introduced an anti-online gambling bill that was aimed at overturning a 2011 Department of Justice legal ruling on the scope of the Wire Act. The bill, titled the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), would reinstate a ban on gambling at the federal level.
Many were puzzled by Graham’s sudden push for anti-online gambling legislation. But, for some, once Graham announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election and was seen rubbing elbows with billionaire GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, his motivation became more clear.
Adelson, the CEO and Chairman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., has a history of backing any candidate who supports his desire to ban online gambling. Adelson argues that online gambling, unlike gambling in his brick-and-mortar Las Vegas casinos, undermines family values and has the potential to be extremely addictive. He has said that he will “spend whatever it takes” to protect Americans from internet casinos, which are, as he refers to, a “societal train wreck waiting to happen.” Adelson doesn’t mention how an outlaw on online gambling will knock out his brick-and-mortar casinos competition, but many believe this is his true motivation when it comes to banning online gambling.
Graham, of course, denies that his interest in banning online gambling has anything to do with gaining support from Adelson. The argument Graham uses to push his anti-online gambling legislature is that the Department of Justice overstepped its bounds on the 2011 clarification of the scope of the Wire Act. “Now, because of this decision by the Obama administration, virtually any cell phone or computer in South Carolina could become a video poker machine” Graham argues.
The 1961 Wire Act has been used for decades to justify a prohibition on online gambling. After the Department of Justice’s 2011 clarification that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting, states were free to express their 10th Amendment right to individually decide whether they would allow online gambling within their borders. Since the ruling, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware have all decided to up to online gambling within their borders.
Although Graham’s 2014 version of RAWA did not make it, in March of 2015 Graham, along with co-sponsor and fellow Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio, re-introduced the bill on the Senate floor. Is it a coincidence that both sponsors of the bill have received campaign donations from Adelson?
There is strong opposition to RAWA, as demonstrated in a letter to Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. The coalition’s letter contends that RAWA “would trample the rights of states, open the door to regulation [of] the Internet and is a textbook example of cronyism.” The coalition’s letter is an example of how many lobbyists and lawmakers do not agree with Graham’s stance on internet gambling, and his desire to push the anti-online gambling legislature.
If RAWA is passed, it would mean sudden death for online gambling as we know it. The three states that have opened up online gambling in their borders would be forced to close it down immediately. This would not only be bad news for online poker players but would also be devastating to the states’ economies. New Jersey would be looking at losing at least $10 million dollars a year in revenue it has been receiving from online gambling.
If we find Graham in the White House come 2016, it will certainly mean big trouble for online gambling. But, lucky for online poker lovers everywhere, it doesn’t seem very likely that Graham will get the GOP nomination, let alone make it to the White House.