Perennial presidential also-ran Mike Huckabee, like so many of his fellow candidates for the Republican Party’s nomination in 2016, has aligned himself with opponents of federal and state legislation which would legalize and regulate the online gambling industry.
In an appearance on his FOX News network show Huckabee on November 22nd, 2014 – only months before his presidential bid was officially announced – the former Arkansas Governor interviewed Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) to discuss the latter’s role as co-chair of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG). CSIG is a lobbying group spearheaded and funded by multi-billion-dollar casino industry titan Sheldon Adelson, one which is currently providing vocal and well-financed support for pending Senate and House legislation known as the Restoring America’s Wire Act (RAWA).
The intention of RAWA is to rewrite the federal Wire Act of 1961, a landmark law which prohibits sports betting – but not other forms of gambling like casino games and poker – via telecommunication lines. The original Wire Act has been interpreted as not covering online gambling today by the Department of Justice (DOJ), and RAWA was designed to change that by expanding the law’s scope to ban online gambling – a pet political cause of mega-donor Adelson.
During his 2014 interview with Lincoln – herself, a former Senator from Arkansas who was ousted via historic landslide in 2010 – Huckabee offered no substantive examination of Lincoln’s claims. In fact, Huckabee issued a purely subjective condemnation of the online gambling industry, drawing widespread criticism from independent media watchdogs and gaming industry insiders alike for declaring without merit that:
“Online gambling websites are preying on every kid with a smartphone or a tablet. This is frankly one of the most important topics that I don’t hear anybody talking about.
Frankly, this is one of those few things that I think, anyone who doesn’t support this in the Congress, they should be thrown out.”
Huckabee also expressed his unequivocal support for RAWA, which had recently been introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). Although these statements were made while Huckabee worked as a television personality, he maintained his firm opposition to online gambling after announcing his intent to run for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in May of 2015.
Huckabee is no stranger to major political elections. Born on August 24th, 1955 in Hope, Arkansas, he served as a pastor for several years before running unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1992, before becoming Lieutenant Governor of his home state in 1993. Huckabee served in that capacity until 1996, when he dropped out of a second Senate race to assume leadership of Arkansas’ state government after Governor Jim Guy Tucker was forced to resign amid a fraudulent loan scandal.
Huckabee remained Governor of Arkansas until 2007 when he set his sights on the White House by campaigning for the Republican Party’s nomination during the 2008 election. Despite winning the Iowa caucuses that year, Huckabee’s presidential ambitions failed to come to fruition in 2008, and despite his rumored interest in a 2012 run, he stayed out of that year’s contest.
After crafting an image for himself as a hardline conservative willing to run to the right of most Republican candidates, Huckabee threw his hat into the ring for the 2016 Republican Primary. His campaign never gained serious traction, however, and he currently draws support of less than 3% in most major national polls.
Considering the timing of Huckabee’s televised infomercial for CSIG and its ongoing efforts to pass RAWA through Congress, most political watchdog groups have expressed their view that Huckabee was simply courting the support of Adelson in preparation of his presidential run. As Bloomberg Politics observed shortly after Huckabee’s interview with Lincoln:
“It’s very likely that Huckabee believes this. It’s also simply true that he’s endorsing Sheldon Adelson’s lobbying stance. Lincoln is a lobbyist retained by Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation; the Coalition is an Adelson front group, as has been known for most of 2014. Its less-than-secret mission is to bring social conservatives like Huckabee – and his viewers – into the trenches, to pass the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, ban Internet gambling, and thereby direct more profits to brick-and-mortar casinos.
The hard-working scolds of Media Matters saw Huckabee’s online gambling settlement as a feint toward Adelson, and 2016; they point out that Huckabee never mentioned the financial backing for Lincoln’s group.”