Get ready for a major push to restrict internet gambling–a major lobbying effort, political arm-twisting, and public service ads on how internet gambling hurts children and the poor.
The irony: All of this anti-gambling sentiment is being stirred up by a billionaire casino owner who wants to stifle the competition.
By the way, he is also a “super-donor” to conservative causes and to Republican politicians.
Billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, whose record-breaking campaign spending in 2012 made him an icon of the new super-donor era, is leveraging that newfound status in an escalating feud with industry rivals over the future of gambling.
Adelson, best known for building upscale casino resorts in Nevada and more recently in Asia, wants to persuade Congress to ban Internet betting. He says the practice is a danger to society and could tarnish the industry’s traditional business model.
Nearly all of his competitors, including Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts, disagree. They say regulated Internet gambling can be done safely and can boost the industry.
To make his point, Adelson is preparing a public campaign to portray online gambling as a danger to children, the poor and others who could be exploited by easy access to Internet betting.
Three states have moved to legalize online gambling, with New Jersey scheduled to go live this month. At least a dozen others are expected to consider it next year.
The new push against Internet gambling is Adelson’s biggest foray into a legislative debate directly related to his business, and it sets up a test of the influence that a mega-donor can exert when lawmakers know he is willing to spend enormous sums to influence elections.
Adelson has begun hiring lobbyists and public relations experts in Washington and in state capitals nationwide to press his case in what is shaping up to be one of the most heavily lobbied debates of 2014.
In January, Adelson plans to roll out an advocacy group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, that aides say will include advocates for children and others who are considered vulnerable to the temptations and potential harms of online betting. The coalition hopes to enlist organizations representing women, African Americans and Hispanics, all seen as likely to be sympathetic to the cause. . . .
Adelson, whose Las Vegas Sands properties include the Venetian and the Palazzo on the Las Vegas Strip and elaborate new casinos in Macau and Singapore, created a stir in last year’s elections when he and his wife spent nearly $100 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, to help Republicans. He almost single-handedly kept Newt Gingrich alive in the Republican primaries and spent generously on ads in congressional races. . . .
Adelson, 80, has been known primarily as an ideological donor. He has spent millions in support of Israel and its Likud party, and last year he backed conservative causes in the United States beyond presidential and congressional politics. He helped bankroll anti-union and anti-tax initiative campaigns in California.
Aides say his effort on Internet gambling is entirely bipartisan and is unrelated to his past or future political contributions.
Adelson has hired three former elected officials as national co-chairs to speak on behalf of the coalition: Wellington Webb (D), the first black mayor of Denver; former U.S. senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.); and former New York governor George Pataki (R).