Competitive Enterprise Institute fellow (and vocal Restoration of America’s Wire Act critic) Michelle Minton decided to attend a recently held policy forum to discuss the Sheldon Adelson inspired online gambling prohibition. The meeting took place at a townhouse on Capitol Hill and was hosted by The Keelen Group, a lobbying firm in the employ of Adelson.

After reading through Minton’s firsthand account of the meet-up, the most accurate portrayal of the policy forum would be to say it started off as underwhelming, and devolved into the theater of the absurd.

Some prominent names attended the RAWA forum

This is a bit odd considering the lobbyists sent to speak at the policy forum to tout the necessity of RAWA were some pretty heavy hitters:

  • Former Congressman Connie Mack
  • Former Congressman J.C. Watts
  • Capitol Counsel lobbyist Aaron Cohen
  • The Keelen Group’s president and founder Matt Keelen
  • Darryl Nirenberg of Steptoe & Johnson

According to Minton, four of the speakers are registered lobbyists for Las Vegas Sands Corp., and the fifth, Watts, was hired by Adelson’s dedicated anti-online gambling lobby group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Minton also named Nirenberg as the author of the original Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill introduced in 2014.

And the meeting gets smaller…

Considering the money Adelson has spent on this issue, and the high-profile lobbyists that would be speaking, Minton was surprised to learn she was just one of four attendees to the policy hearing, and even more surprised to discover two other attendees were also RAWA critics. So for those of you counting at home, there were five scheduled speakers and four attendees in the room, three of whom were there to keep tabs on the opposition.

That leaves just a single person, a congressional staffer for an unnamed member, who was in attendance on their own accord. And we don’t really know what his motivations for being there were either.

By the time the meeting was 20 minutes old, that lone person was the only one (not scheduled to speak) still left in the room, as despite the low turnout, the hosts decided having several detractors in the crowd was not in their best interest.

Minton was the first person they approached and asked to leave, claiming the meeting was for staffers only. Minton quietly left, despite having requested to attend, and being given the ok that very morning. She was soon joined by one of the other RAWA critics, a representative for the Taxpayer Protection Alliance. Later she learned the third person, a PR person for another anti-RAWA group, was also asked to leave.

Lobbying money well spent?

Minton estimates that Adelson has handed these particular lobbyists and their firms over $1 million to push his anti-online gambling agenda, and it appears they’ve managed to reach a single congressional staffer. Money well spent.

This reminds me of something lobbyist Bill Pascrell III said on a panel at the Global Gaming Expo concerning lobbyists. Paraphrasing his soliloquy, but trust me, he said it much better: “Before Black Friday I saw these lobbyists lead the big online poker sites around Capitol Hill. They did a good job taking their money and selling them on getting online poker legalized, but in the end they got nothing. Now I see these same people leading Adelson’s people around Capitol Hill making the same promises.”

And Pascrell III should know, being a lobbyist and all.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve is a seasoned veteran of the online gambling industry, having written about it from every possible angle in his many years as a freelance gaming writer. Based in Massachusetts, Steve especially focuses on regulatory and legislative news coverage pertaining to the U.S. market.