The number of Republican presidential candidates to publicly express opposition to federal regulation of online gambling increases by the day, but Rand Paul bucked the trend recently by explicitly stating his support for a free market.
Asked about the recent introduction of legislation in the House and Senate which would prohibit online gambling of any type, Rand offered the following take during an April 10th, 2015 interview with The Alpha Pages:
“I’m opposed to restrictions on online gambling. The government needs to stay out of that business.”
Paul’s libertarian response is fully in line with his family’s famously passionate views on the role of government in American society. Born on January 7th, 1963 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Randal Howard Paul was the third child born to Dr. Ron Paul. The elder Paul spent much of his adult life in politics, serving as a House Representative of Texas during three stints in Congress between 1976 and 2013. He also ran for President three times, twice as a Republican primary candidate and once as the Libertarian Party’s nominee.
Rand Paul followed in his father’s footsteps many times, first by becoming a doctor in 1993, and then again by becoming a member of Congress 18 years later. Paul began his ophthalmology practice in Bowling Green, Kentucky, before running as a candidate for the U.S. Senate as a representative of the state. Both of the Pauls were sworn into the 112th Congress on January 5th, 2011. Rand Paul has served in his capacity as a Senator since that time, and on April 7th, 2015 he officially announced his candidacy for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Days after announcing the presidential campaign, Paul offered the succinct defense of online gambling rights quoted above. The line of questioning was linked to a specific item of legislation known as the Restoring America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which was first introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) in 2014. Funded by the seemingly unlimited financial power of multi-billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who at one point pledged to “spend whatever it takes” to outlaw online gambling in America, RAWA was authored to align closely with Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG).
The goal of RAWA is to expand the purview of the Wire Act of 1961 to include all forms of internet-based gambling, rather than specifically sports betting as the law is currently interpreted by the DOJ. As described by Rep. Chaffetz in a press release announcing RAWA’s original introduction, he stated:
“The DOJ opened the door for massive change in policy without significant public input. These fundamental changes need to go through Congress. By restoring the original interpretation of the Wire Act, we are putting the genie back in the bottle and allowing for an open debate to take place.”
Rand Paul’s opposition to governmental intervention in private industry’s like online gambling comes as no surprise, given both his and his father’s fiercely libertarian leanings. In fact, Ron Paul penned a spirited op-ed on September 10th, 2015 for the U.S. News and World Report, in which he outlined several key reasons for opposing RAWA:
“Sadly, two presidential candidates, Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Marco Rubio of Florida, are supporting legislation that combines an unconstitutional assault on individual liberty with cronyism.
Proponents of the iGaming ban claim a nationwide ban on internet gambling is necessary to protect against widespread online gambling by citizens in states where gambling is outlawed. This argument ignores the existence of technology allowing online casinos to ensure their customers are legally allowed to gamble online.
A national ban would not be justified even if state laws allowing online gambling led to widespread violations of other state laws prohibiting Internet gambling. The 10th Amendment is supposed to restrain federal power, not justify creating new federal crimes.”
Despite failing to gain widespread traction during the latest session of Congress, RAWA has been reintroduced in identical forms by both Sen. Graham and Rep. Chaffetz, with Adelson providing a renewed base of financial backing for the upcoming lobbying battle.
While Rand Paul is currently polling at just 2 percent in most national polls, his presidential campaign, like that of his father’s famous dark horse run, still holds genuine appeal for a certain segment of the electorate. His statement affirming the right of Americans to gamble online signaled a strong rebuke of RAWA’s central premise, and this viewpoint has been adopted by a growing number of Congressional members and political action groups.
In the months since Rand Paul issued his statement, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), conservative activist Grover Norquist, and the American Conservative Union have all expressed their opposition to RAWA.