Secrecy in campaign contributions good for Republicans, bad for gaming law

Campaign-Contributions-Gaming-LawTwo relatively recent US Supreme Court decisions — 2007’s case of Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right To Life, Inc. and 2010’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission – have effectively eliminated federal constraints on corporate political contributions, and as a result, a veil of secrecy has descended upon the financing of political campaigns. In 2004 and 2006, almost all independent groups seeking to make their voices heard also made their list of donors public. But that percentage dropped to less than half by 2008, and so far this year, less than a third of such groups have made the names of their deep-pocketed supporters publicly available.

However, according to most insiders, the majority of the donors in the 2010 election cycle are giving to Republican candidates, in the hope they can take back either the House or Senate, or both. Some pundits are claiming that the likelihood of this scenario has been greatly diminished with the recent primary victories of unsung Tea Party candidates like Delaware’s Christine “I dabbled into witchcraft” O’Donnell, who have great appeal to the far right of the Republican party, but might fare poorly when appealing to the electorate as a whole. Hard to say how much of this attitude is grounded in fact and how much might be a case of Democrats ‘whistling past the graveyard’ but it’s rarely a good idea – in politics, business or any other form of combat — to underestimate one’s opponent.

So what does this mean for online gambling? Not much, say some, who claim that the Tea Party are more interested in financial rectitude than in the religious pandering that held the Republican party captive for the last decade and a half. However, if you go by the number of times God’s name was invoked by Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin at the recent Tea Party rally in Washington, suddenly that distinction doesn’t seem so clear cut. In fact, because their self-appointed leaders tend to deal in so many fuzzy generalities, it’s often hard to tell exactly what the Tea Party stands for, but it’s never been much of a struggle to identify what they’re against. They’re against whatever the Democrats are for, and lately, Democrats have been for the expansion of legal online gaming in the US.

In short, Republican victories in November would make the likelihood of sweeping changes to federal gaming law a very bad bet for years to come. Far more likely to occur are smaller changes on a state by state basis (similar to what is taking place north of the border in Canada). Sportsbetting will remain a taboo subject under federal prohibition, but there will likely be incremental moves in various states to expand access to online poker, casino, horseracing and bingo. But once this patchwork quilt of state legislation takes root, it will provide yet another obstacle to sweeping country-wide legislative change. Basically, as I predicted last year, it is unlikely that the US will ever have federal online gaming regulation.