Marco Rubio’s pro-online poker stance prompts pushback from RAWA backers

rubio-online-poker-carveoutRepublican presidential wannabe Marco Rubio has suggested he’d support a poker carveout from a federal online gambling ban, but that vision isn’t shared by the money men behind the bill.

Over the weekend, the Las Vegas Review Journal quoted from a Q&A the Florida senator had with the paper’s editorial board, in which he suggested poker could be exempted from the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the federal legislation that would ban most forms of online gambling in the United States.

Rubio, who signed on as co-sponsor when the Senate version of RAWA was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in June, opined that there was “an element of skill” associated with poker “compared with just a slot machine online,” and that was what “distinguishes [poker] a little bit.” The senator’s communications director subsequently confirmed Rubio’s poker stance.

But Rubio apparently failed to check with Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson, the real power behind RAWA, who has described poker as one of “the most addictive games” you can play online. Andy Abboud, Adelson’s point man on all things RAWA, told the LVRJ that “there may be some varying opinions from the co-sponsors, but there really isn’t any push for [a poker carveout].”

Rubio will likely curb his pro-poker tongue in future interviews. The senator is among the hopefuls trying to beat Donald Trump for the GOP presidential nomination and Adelson is one of the GOP’s top donors. Adelson has met repeatedly with Rubio during the current campaign but has so far declined to give his endorsement to a specific candidate. Time to put down the water bottle and drink Sheldon’s Kool-aid, Marco.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is a former vice-presidential candidate but isn’t among the current crop of GOP presidential hopefuls. However, he is the frontrunner to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the House and, on Monday, Ryan named David Hoppe, a federal lobbyist with ties to Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), as his new chief of staff.

In April, Hoppe joined Squire Patton Boggs as its senior policy advisor. Hoppe formerly served as chief of staff to former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, another Squire Patton Boggs principal. According to lobbying disclosure records, Squire Patton Boggs has been paid $180k since July to push CSIG’s agenda on federal politicians.

Neither the Senate nor House version of RAWA is believed to have much hope of passage but that isn’t stopping Adelson’s anti-online allies from keeping up appearances. Earlier this month, the attorneys general of Missouri and South Carolina co-signed a letter to their counterparts in other states and to congressional leaders urging them not to give up the good fight against online gambling. A similar letter last year garnered the signatures of 15 attorneys general, and the dynamic duo are giving allies until Friday to sign on to this year’s version.