The 2016 presidential elections are still far off, but potential Republican nominees have already met with Sheldon Adelson, to plan the details of a potential ban on internet gambling.
The billionaire casino mogul and chief executive officer of Las Vegas Sands recently met with likely contenders who are hoping to get his financial support for the presidential elections in 2016. Adelson has made generous contributions to former candidates too, and now he is asking for something in return.
It is already a well-known fact that Sheldon Adelson is the number one enemy of online casinos in America. He openly promised to spend “as much as it takes” to get rid of all forms of internet gambling in the country which only recently became reacquainted with this booming industry.
So now the CEO of one of the biggest casino developers in the world is trying to get more political support for his plan. But will it work?
The virtual casino threat
Although his company makes tens of billions in profits, Sheldon Adelson views online gaming as a threat to his kingdom. His plans to eradicate virtual casinos started shortly after US players were finally getting reacquainted with online poker sites opened under the new American gambling laws.
Several newspapers have covered the meeting between Sheldon Adelson and the aspiring politicians, but Dana Milbank of the Washington Post commented:
“Everybody knows that, behind closed doors, politicians often sell themselves to the highest bidder; this time, they were doing it in public, as if vending their wares at a live auction.”
The 80 year-old Sands chairman even drafted a three-page bill entitled “The Internet Gambling Control Act” and introduced it to the US House of Representatives, hoping to alter the US Department of Justice’s 2011 ruling which states that the 1961 Wire Act only applies to sports betting. He didn’t get too far with this plan though, as some said the draft is full of gaps and cannot be passed in the presented form.
But the initiative made it obvious how desperate Adelson is to kill the American online gambling industry. The billionaire is convinced internet casinos can hurt his Las Vegas brick-and-mortar business, but the bill mentioned fraud, money laundering and terrorism financing among potential dangers.
He worked hard for the money
Despite Adelson’s objections, a few states have moved ahead with their plans to regulate internet casinos. The billionaire must have been furious to see Nevada become the first state to legalize online poker sites in America. New Jersey and Delaware joined last November and now more states are considering it.
But Adelson’s power and influence did manage to intimidate certain legislators. Rumor has it he is looking for a presidential candidate to support, but he does have one “job requirement”: his pick has to be a fervent opponent of online gambling.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval saw an ally in Gov. Rick Perry from Texas when he first made plans to set up an interstate online poker pact. Perry had never sponsored internet casinos in any way, but Sandoval seemed to believe he could be convinced.
But the Texas politician, who mounted a challenge to Mitt Romney in the 2012 Republican primaries, figured he’d better back out of the deal if he’s going to run again in 2016. Proving he’s on Adelson side could come in very handy should he need a sponsor for his campaign and the casino mogul has been very generous with Romney.
Christie could be it
As the media speculated that the scope of Adelson’s recent meeting was to gather support for his cause and scout his perfect candidate, the political pilgrimage to Vegas was dubbed “the Adelson primary” in local gambling news. And some believe the event has helped the billionaire make his decision: Chris Christie.
Adelson hasn’t yet announced who he will back for the 2016 elections, but the media is betting on New Jersey governor Chris Christie. Surprisingly, this potential candidate has proved to be a supporter of online gambling, but many believe Adelson’s money could help change his attitude towards the issue.
Besides, the Las Vegas Sands chairman is looking for an electable candidate, who actually has a chance of defeating his Democratic opponent, and Christie might just have what it takes. He recently stated: “I’m not in this business to win the argument. I’m in this business to win elections.” Sounds like something Adelson’s favorite would say.
While the future of US online gambling remains uncertain, most industry experts believe America won’t turn its back on the freshly-legalized industry. At least not for the sake of an 80 year-old man.