By Andrew J. Ireland
WASHINGTON – Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent push to end online gambling has raised the eyebrows of “Casino Jack,” a.k.a. Jack Abramoff, the nation’s most notorious former lobbyist.
In March, Gov. Perry, a likely presidential hopeful for 2016, sent a letter to congressional leaders and the House and Senate Judiciary Committees asking Congress to reverse a 2011 Department of Justice interpretation of the Wire Act that opened the door to legalized online gambling in the states.
In an exclusive interview with WND, Abramoff, author of the bestselling book “Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth about Washington Corruption from America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist,” said he was “surprised Rick Perry came out in favor of that. It’s interesting.”
In the span of 10 years, Abramoff became the most powerful lobbyist on Capitol Hill, racking up countless clients in the casino industry and even owning a fleet of cruise-ship casinos himself.
“The gaming industry is entirely a political creation, and everything about it is politics,” Abramoff told WND. “These politics are generally shaped in the public good, but all of it relates to politics and market share.”
Abramoff also drew the connection between Perry’s move and the interests of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation and builder of The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino. In 2012, Adelson donated nearly $100 million to Republican candidates, and in fact, Adelson was a major donor to Perry’s 2007 re-election race for governor.
Abramoff called Adelson the “leading force against online gaming.”
“He just last week hired three more lobbying firms to fight [online gambling],” Abramoff said. “Ralph Reed was, in fact, just hired by him.
“Adelson is very, very opposed to [online gambling],” Abramoff continued. “He believes that will destroy his land-based properties.
“He may have other reasons that he’s against online gambling, but the primary one has got to be to protect his $2 billion properties all over the place,” he said. “They’re billions and billions of dollars of investment, and you don’t want to see it go up in smoke because somebody goes and registers a website for $15.”
Perry’s camp, however, denies any connection between Adelson’s money and the governor’s letter. A spokeswoman for Perry told the Associated Press the governor has not even discussed Internet gambling with Adelson.
“Gov. Perry has long been opposed to expanding the footprint of any gambling in Texas,” the governor’s spokeswoman, Lucy Nashed, said in an email.
In his letter to congressional leaders, Perry said restoring the former interpretation of the Wire Act and reinstating the federal ban on online gambling would bolster state rights.
“When gambling occurs in the virtual world, the ability of states to determine whether the activity should be available to its citizens and under what conditions … is left subject to the vagaries of the technological marketplace,” he said.
He urged Congress to “carefully examine the short- and long-term social and economic consequences before Internet gambling spread.”
In his New York Times bestseller “Capitol Punishment,” Abramoff reverses course from his former ways, pulls back the curtain on K Street, revealing the dirty underbelly of America’s government and offers a harsh, thorough roster of reform imperatives.
Abramoff, himself born in gambling town Atlantic City, New Jersey, represented Indian tribes whose lucrative casinos were constantly under threat from proposed changes in law; though he charged the tribes many millions, he saved them billions by ensuring votes to support the livelihoods of their reservations.
On Jan. 3, 2006, Abramoff pleaded guilty to three felony counts related to his lobbying work. Having served 43 months in federal prison, Abramoff is out and ready to speak. He says the shocking wake-up call woke him up, and now, Abramoff is determined to do all he can to identify and help end the corruption of the system he so well played.
Andrew Ireland is an intern for WND.