Land casino billionaire has been using his wealth to grow political opposition to legalised online gambling
In his crusade against online gambling, multi-billionaire land casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is deploying a state-level political network he has been quietly developing over the past few years through extensive political donations, according to a report Wednesday in the Washington Post.
In addition to the widely known $90 million he poured into Republican Party and candidate coffers in 2012, the Post claims that Adelson contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to political committees supportive of Republican Gov. Rick Scott in Florida.
He also gave $2 million to the Republican Governors Association and directed millions more to candidates for attorney general and other state-level offices across the country, the newspaper claims, noting that many of the beneficiaries of Adelson's state donations are now siding with the billionaire in his campaign against online gambling.
The article details political initiatives Adelson has been able to mobilise that include:
* Gov. Scott's letter to congressional leaders urging the restoration of the Wire Act;
* The Graham-Chaffetz bills currently before Congress urging the restoration of the Wire Act; Graham has in the past received donations from Adelson. It is widely believed that the wording of the bills is the work of Adelson's Las Vegas Sands attorney, Darryl Nirenberg.
* Hired two well-connected California Democrats – former state House speaker Fabian Núñez and longtime well-connected party strategist Chris Lehane – as he moves to combat legalisation legislation in California. The two new members of Team Adelson join a payroll that already features other prominent Democrats like former senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and former Denver mayor Wellington Webb.
* Hired former New York governor George Pataki for his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
* Between 2010 and 2012, Adelson contributed $750,000 to committees supporting Scott and his political agenda, according to Florida campaign finance records. That included a $250,000 contribution to the Republican Governors Association PAC in Florida, made in September 2010, just prior to Scott's election, and two additional $250,000 contributions in June 2012 – one to the Republican Party of Florida and the other to Let's Get to Work, Scott's independent political action committee.
* Letters to congressional leaders sent prior to Gov. Scott's communication by Republican governors Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Rick Perry of Texas use very similar wording and content.
* Earlier this year, Florida's attorney general, Pamela Jo Bondi, signed a letter with 15 other attorneys general warning of the consequences of Internet gambling, quoting well-known Adelson talking points such as "access by minors, fraud… gambling addiction, and terrorist financing.
* Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal wrote an op-ed supportive of Adelson's cause in a local newspaper; Jindal helped lead the Republican Governor's Association when Adelson made a $2 million donation to the body.
* Last week, Republican Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana formally expressed his opposition in a letter to the Indiana congressional delegation. Like Jindal and Rick Perry, Pence has received Adelson's financial support in the past. All three are contemplating running for president in 2016.
* Persuaded Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein to sponsor the Graham bill seeking the restoration of the Wire Act.
* Expanded the Adelson anti-online gambling network to include influential religious groups such as the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
* Hired two former Faith and Freedom officials – Gary Marx, a former executive director of the organisation and Ralph Reed. The latter is an interesting character who allegedly worked with the notorious lobbyist "Casino Jack" Abramoff to block a proposed ban on Internet gambling in years past.
The Post observes that Adelson has triggered "what may become one of the costliest lobbying battles of the year", in Washington and state capitals, as he combats rival gambling companies favouring a move to the Internet.
His efforts include hiring expensive lobbying companies, some set up by former politicians, along with advertising and television campaigns.
One of his recent recruits, Democratic Party strategist Chris Lehane told the Post that Adelson is playing three levels of chess in researching key political players, assembling a powerful team and focusing on a favourable bipartisan message that stresses the need for the safety of children.
One of the most promising states in terms of legalisation, Pennsylvania, could become a new battleground as Adelson's campaign seeks to influence the decision of lawmakers.
Las Vegas Sands operates a large land casino in the state, and the company's lobbyist at the state capitol, Joe Uliana, claims that it has "a lot of clout". Uliana is mobilising conservative religious groups in the state and intends to put the Adelson argument forward in the state.
Online Casino News Courtesy of Infopowa