Internet Gambling: is it really a moral dilemma?

Sheldon Adelson is a wealthy individual. Forbes currently has him listed at #8 on their top 100 wealthiest people in the world, with a net worth of ~39.5B. Mr. Adelson has done exceedingly well for himself, having built a casino empire after dropping out of college.

While Adelson is extremely wealthy, he is likely more well-known for his involvement in national politics, more specifically conservative politics. He’s given literally tens of millions of dollars to conservative causes. He and his wife spent $92M on the 2012 GOP primary and general election. For what its worth, he has also given tens of millions to traditional charitable causes.

Recently, Adelson was quoted as saying the following in relation to ending the morally suspect problem of internet gambling:

I am willing to spend whatever it takes

Not that anyone doubted this. Adelson has proved his pain threshold for throwing good money after bad is incredibly high. But is this type of legislation something conservative politicians would ever support?

Let’s begin by asking Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. He’s a Republican. He’s not well-liked nationally among conservatives. He’s in the midst of a packed primary in SC, one which he will likely make it out of, also to the dismay of many conservatives.

It has been reported that he is expected to introduce a bill in the Senate to ban internet gambling (Rep. Jason Chavetz will introduce a similar bill in the House which supposedly has support from both sides of the aisle). Adelson is quoted in the linked article as saying that online gambling is not good for society and could hurt the traditional business model of casinos.

Mr. Adelson, it appears that you are trying to legislate yourself out of competition. That’s pretty weak. It is hypocritical to attempt to legislate a safer position in business for yourself supported with political contributions made to politicians with dollars earned through encouraging people to spend money gambling in your brick-and-mortar casinos rather than doing so from the comfort of their own homes.

Take a moment. Allow that to sink in… A man with a net worth of nearly $40B US dollars, largely earned in the casino business, believes that online gambling is not good for society. Only gambling of the online variety.

When news media, pundits, and your preferred partisan blog bemoan the state of money in politics, stories like these make it hard to deny the role money can and likely does play in politics. It is for this reason I am not a fan of lobbying in the slightest.

What is worse here is that Senator Graham, who was given $15,600 in total (the maximum allowable under law) by Adelson and his wife, has suddenly become the standard bearer for this bill. Conservatives have been railing about personal responsibility for the past twenty years (see Reagan, Ronald or McMorris-Rodgers, Cathy). They have been correct to do this. People ought to be held responsible for their choices and the consequences of those choices, both the good and the bad.

I submit that Adelson’s attempt to purchase a legislated business interest under the guise of moral and cultural concern is morally dangerous and bad for our culture, but Sen. Graham’s support for it is even more deplorable. He’s an elected official who appears to have been essentially purchased by a donor and used for that donor’s personal benefit.

Is internet gambling a moral dilemma? Maybe. Is it more of a moral dilemma than casino gambling? Probably not. Is it any different than alcohol, tobacco, or other potentially addictive activities that may not be good for society? Not really. All of these things can be entertaining, destroy families, ruin childhoods, be memorable, be addictive, provide valuable tax revenues to cities and states, and many other positives and negatives.

When the founders of Phillip Morris, RJR, and Lorillard begin spreading around money to Senators and Representatives to ban e-cigarettes, we’ll know our culture is safe and secure…

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