Will Obama Legalize Online Gambling?Published August 8, 2008 by OCR Editor
Conventional wisdom says that an Obama Presidency will be good for the online gambling industry. What does the candidate's record have to say about it?
With the November election rapidly approaching, Americans are starting to wonder what how a President Obama or a President McCain would lead on various controversial issues. While the 'big ticket' issues, the economy, the war in Iraq, and Iran's nuclear program, get the press coverage, smaller issues are also on the voters' minds. Online gambling is one of those smaller issues.
According to conventional wisdom, an Obama Presidency would likely legalize, regulate, and tax the online gambling industry. Obama has the highest 'liberal' rating in the US Senate, and he has consistently voted in favor of increasing government regulation in a variety of industries. He has no statements on record against online gaming.
Behind the numbers
However, a closer examination of Obama's career as a legislator suggests another possibility.
During 8 years in the Illinois State Senate, Obama compiled an admirable attendance record. He rarely missed a session or a vote. On the flip side, State Senator Obama also amassed 130 'present' votes during those 8 years; more than any other member of the State Senate. Obama continued both trends, good attendance and voting 'present,' while in the US Senate.
What might this say about an Obama Presidency? Maybe nothing, but maybe a lot.
Avoiding hot issues
It's important to remember that voting 'present' is a dodge; it allows a legislator to attend a vote without declaring himself on an issue, thus avoiding the stigma of poor legislative attendance while also avoiding angering constituents. Obama used this, on average once every month, almost exclusively on 'hot button' issues: bills to regulate abortions, or the locations of adult bookstores, for example.
This habit of non-declaration reveals itself in Obama's campaign, too; he is well known for taking firm positions in front of one audience (telling AIPAC that "Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel," for example) and then telling the opposite audience something entirely different (he told an Arab-American interviewer that the Jerusalem comment was 'bad syntax' the very next day).
Lower thy expectations
For the online gambling industry, these habits of Obama's, his desire to be all things to all people while avoiding the difficult issues, may mean that an Obama Administration will simply try to ignore something as potentially controversial as online gambling. He's promising change, but on this one, don't bet on it.