The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling Hires the Keelen Group for Lobbying Effort

Keelen Group is expected to advocate Sheldon Adelson's views on online gambling.

Keelen Group is expected to advocate Sheldon Adelson’s views on online gambling.

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) is active once again on Capital Hill. Sheldon Adelson’s anti-online gambling public policy group had seemed inactive after the failure of Restore America’s Wire Act (RAWA) to gain traction with the U.S. Congress in recent months, but it has hired the Keelan Group to redouble its efforts in the US Congress.

Though it is not as prestigious as the CSIG’s previous lobbying firm, Squire Patton Boggs, the Keelen Group represents a number of high-powered clients, such as Pike Corporation and the Las Vegas Sands. Its clientele often includes unions and trade associations, including the Teamsters Union. The group also represents fire fighters, doctors, pilots, masons, and engineers.

Delay Pro-Online Gambling Laws

According to The Hill, the strategy this time appears to be a different one. Instead of proposing a ban on online gambling, the Keelen Group strategy is likely to be a negative one.

That is, Sheldon Adelson is going to play defense, trying to delay and negate any legislation which would be in favor of the online gambling industry. Several possibilities exist for the passage of Internet gambling legislation, so Sheldon Adelson appears ready to put his clout in the path of the spread of iGaming at the federal level.

Defeat of the RAWA Bill

The CSIG has been Sheldon Adelson’s main tool in implementing anti-online gambling efforts at the state and federal level. It was the group which hired Squire Patton Boggs┬áin the summer of 2015 to lobby Congress on behalf of Restore America’s Wire Act.

RAWA would have banned online gambling in all 50 states. The law was supported by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, including presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Lindsey Graham. Despite their support, the bill did not gain favor in Congress. Republicans of a libertarian slant opposed RAWA, because it would have taken away US states’ power to create their own online gambling laws. A disastrous performance for the anti-online gambling crowd before Rep. Jason Chaffetz’ House Oversight Committee in December seemed to have been the end of CSIG’s efforts to change public opinion.

Ads Against John Payne

While the group has focused mainly on lobbying members of Congress in Washington D.C., CSIG ran attack ads against Pennsylvania State Representative John Payne when he sponsored an online poker bill in his home state.

The advertisements CSIG ran against John Payne used the slogan “Are Pennsylvania Kids Safe?”, based on the implication children would gamble illegally if John Payne’s bill were passed. The Pennsylvania effort has been more successful, which is why the new efforts by Sheldon Adelson’s lobbying group could prove troublesome for proponents of online gambling.

May 11 Subcommittee Hearing

The announcement of a House subcommittee hearing on online gambling, sports betting, and daily fantasy sports may be the reason for the new signs of activity. The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade has planned a May 11 meeting to discuss those topics. The subcommittee has not released the list of speakers it plans to call to the meeting.

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling is not the only lobbying effort with ties to the gaming industry. Amaya Gaming, the Canadian software company which bought PokerStars and FullTilt Poker for $4.9 billion in 2014, has hired lobbyists. Presumably, Amaya is preparing to take part in the debate on online gambling. In this case, Amaya has a pro-online gambling stance.

CSA Strategies Lobbying Firm

The lobbying firm hired by Amaya Gaming is CSA Strategies. CSA Strategies represents the Poker Players Alliance, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Allegheny Health Network, and the Coordinated Care Network. Alejandro Urrea, who served as counsel to the House Financial Services Committee, was the founder of the firm.

Alejandro Urrea is known to have strong ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The National Review’s Jonathan Strong once told a story of Urrea appearing on a golf course to suggest a political aide’s father (who was golfing) needed to talk his son out of career suicide. The reason for that advice is because Mark Harris of Cold Spark Media (the son in the story) had become a consultant for one of Mitch McConnell’s political opponents.

Alejandro Urrea Scouting Report

Whatever the implications the NR anecdote raises, it shows a lobbyist dedicated to his goals. Amaya Gaming appears to have hired a man with friends inside the Capitol Building and a willingness to go the extra mile.

Given CSA Strategies’ ties to the Poker Players Alliance (which stretch back to 2010), one can suppose the lobbying effort is likely to support online poker first and foremost. Months ago, it was reported that Sheldon Adelson might have changed his strategy and might even support online poker, perhaps as a Trojan horse to ban online casino betting.