Adelson Helps Swing Texas Back Against Online Poker


Posted: April 3, 2014

Updated: October 4, 2017

After several Texas lawmakers indicate openness to online poker in recent years the shadow of Sheldon Adelson’s millions shuts the door on the very idea.

In recent years one of America’s most conservative bastions turned some heads by indicating openness to some forms of online gambling. National Congressman Joe Barton has been one of the country’s most vocal proponents of legal online poker, and state legislators Leticia Van Der Putte and Eddie Rodriguez have pushed to amend the Texas constitution to allow the activity. While things were looking up for online poker players in 2013, recent events make prospects look much dimmer.

The door starts to crack open

US Republican Representative Joe Barton is one of the most baffling names in a long list of baffling American politicians. He has made a name for himself as a staunch conservative and opponent of increased regulation of fossil fuels. However, in 2011 he shocked the establishment by sponsoring the Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011. To cut through all of the incomprehensible political jargon, the bill has been commonly dubbed “the online poker act.”

The bill would create a federal system for legalized online poker sites in America. A federal body would approve state regulators to issue interstate licenses (which would mean that the site could operate in other states with legal internet poker). States would also have the right to opt out of the network. In a nutshell, the bill concedes that Americans love to play online poker so it is better for government to regulate and prevent abuses like underage gambling than to allow to market to operate freely.

Why would a conservative Texas Republican spearhead the charge to legalize an activity associated with less than pristine morals? For one, he has clearly stated his correct belief that poker is a game of skill, not chance, and thus individuals should be free to engage in it as citizens of a free country. The kind of stuff you would expect a rugged individualistic small-government Texan to rally behind.

The bill didn’t pass, but some states are moving forward on their own internet markets. Nevada legalized online poker last year to the chagrin of Sheldon Adelson. Nevada has reached out to Texas on the issue of forging an interstate pact. Given Texas’ massive population it would a lucrative market to tap. Last year the state legislature introduced the Poker Gaming Act of 2013, which would legalize both land-based and online poker rooms. The bill did not receive enough support to pass, but legalization has been backed by figures such as Leticia Van Der Putte and Eddie Rodriguez.

Adelson helps slam the door shut

Sheldon Adelson was none too pleased when the State of Nevada went against his wishes and legalized online poker. That also came as New Jersey and Delaware created online casino markets. He has made fighting online casinos in America his personal crusade, and there was never any question he would devote ample resources to prevent its spread to other states. He has chosen Texas as a main battleground in his crusade.

Texas Governor Rick Perry has never sponsored online gambling in any form, but last year Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval saw him as a potential partner for an interstate online poker pact. He recently ended his ambivalence by submitting a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to pass a ban on online gambling. The statement read:

Allowing Internet gaming to invade the homes of every American family, and to be piped into our dens, living rooms, workplaces and even our kids’ bedrooms and dorm rooms, is a major decision,” they added. “We must carefully examine the short- and long-term social and economic consequences before Internet gambling spreads.

Perry will certainly not sign off on any bill legalizing online poker in his state. But what does this have to do with Adelson? He is not directly connected to Perry’s emphatic denouncement of online gambling. But the desire for financial backing from Adelson is certainly on Perry’s mind. Adelson is looking for an anti-gambling presidential hopeful to back in the 2016 elections. Once in office, he most certainly would expect this figure to help facilitate a federal ban on online gambling.

This is where Perry comes in. He mounted a challenge to Mitt Romney during the Republican primaries in 2012 before eventually bowing out. He plans to run again in 2016. In 2012 Adelson put down $92 million, most of it going to the campaign of Newt Gingrich. This turned out to be a bad investment. He may donate even more money next time around and is looking for an electable candidate. Being 89 years old, it may be his last chance to get a change to American gambling laws through Congress. In reality there looks like little chance that Adelson would support Perry, as he has tabbed Chris Christie, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush as his favorites so far. But that won’t stop Perry from stumping for his support.

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