Monday November 18 ,2013 : LAND GAMBLING MOGUL IN NEW ASSAULT ON INTERNET GAMBLING
Adelson prepared to spend big to halt the advance of online gambling in America.
Sheldon Adelson, the eighty-year-old owner of the Las Vegas Sands land gambling group and the Republican Party's biggest single donor, is not yet done with internet gambling for USA players, and is planning a further attack on the industry to halt its growth in the United States, according to a report in the Washington Post over the weekend.
But this time the assault will be broader-based than his advertising effort earlier this year, and will continue despite almost all of Adelson's rivals embracing at the very least legalised online poker.
The Post reports that Adelson's staff is currently preparing a multi-faceted public campaign designed to portray online gambling as a danger to children, the poor and others.
"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," the newspaper comments.
Adelson has begun hiring lobbyists and public relations experts in Washington and in state capitals nationwide to press his case, and in January 2014 he has planned the launch of an action group titled the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
Aides told The Washington Post that the coalition hopes to enlist organisations representing women, African Americans and Hispanics, all seen as likely to be sympathetic to the anti-internet gambling cause.
It will emphasise the dangers of underage and problem gambling, arguments that are close to Adelson's heart.
"Advisers to Adelson say he is intensely focused on the coming battle and talks about it every day with his staff. He has about two dozen experts working nearly full time on the issue," one source told the newspaper.
“In my 15 years of working with him, I don’t think I have ever seen him this passionate about any issue,” said Andy Abboud, Adelson’s top political adviser.
However, Adelson's competitors and proponents of online gambling are said to view the octogenarian's initiative as a major threat, and have vowed to mount a counteroffensive arguing that his proposed ban would foster a dangerous, unregulated black market.
The pro-legalised online poker advocacy group Poker Players Alliance has reacted to the news.
“We don’t make a habit of picking fights with billionaires,” said John Pappas, the PPA's executive director. “But in this case, I think we’ll win, because millions of Americans who want to play online will oppose this legalization, along with dozens and dozens of states that want the freedom to authorize any kind of gaming they see fit.”
Adelson's rivals are careful not to underestimate the influence his big bucks can deliver, pointing to last year's elections, when he and his wife contributed a record almost $100 million to the Republican cause.
Aides say his effort on Internet gambling is entirely bipartisan and is unrelated to his past or future political contributions.
The Post reports that the land casino mogul has hired three former elected officials as national co-chairs to speak on behalf of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling: Democrats Wellington Webb, the first black mayor of Denver and Senator Blanche Lincoln; and former New York governor George Pataki, a Republican.
The trio will be deployed to deliver speeches and write op-eds highlighting the threats that online betting pose to the public.
Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president for government relations at Caesars Entertainment, said that Adelson's approach had the potential to endanger everything he professed to protect.
Interestingly, Adelson's stance on internet gambling puts him on a collision course with New Jersey's Republican governor and party heavyweight Chris Christie, who has embraced strictly regulated and licensed online gambling in the Garden State in a bid to bolster business in the flagging Atlantic City market.
Noting that legalization is well advanced in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey, the Post expects other states like California, Pennsylvania, New York and Florida to legalise next year, along with others.
Adelson's new Washington initiative for a federal ban will be directed by a team of lobbyists from two high-powered firms, Patton Boggs and Husch Blackwell. The lobbyists have already met with numbers of congressional aides, and sources told the Post that some lawmakers are "…circulating draft legalization to stop all online gaming and direct the FBI to study potential law enforcement issues related to the practice."
The casino mogul will himself travel to Washington early in the New Year to put his case personally to legislators.
A Republican polling firm, the Tarrance Group has also been put on retainer by Adelson, and this month produced a survey showing that about seven in 10 voters have negative feelings about Internet gambling — a finding that Adelson’s rivals dispute.
Webb, Lincoln and Pataki will attack on different aspects of online gambling:
Pataki will pursue law enforcement concerns, including the risk of money laundering and fraud, whilst Lincoln will drive the threat to children and families, and Webb will punt the potential for lost revenue when taxpayers get into financial trouble by gambling on mobile devices. He will also try to encourage civil rights leaders to join the coalition.