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.
Sheldon Adelson wasn't just another Republican donor in 2012. The billionaire casino magnate reportedly spent $150 million -- just in one election cycle -- to elect Republican candidates, though his return on investment was rather underwhelming.
Adelson isn't nearly as committed to boosting the GOP at this point -- at least not yet -- but the Washington Post reports that he's shifted his focus from electing lawmakers to lobbying them on specific policy area.
To advance his cause, Adelson has apparently hired Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), former Gov. George Pataki (R-N.Y.), and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb (D).
What's unclear is whether the pitch will resonate. As Adelson and his team see it, if Americans want to gamble at one of Adelson's casinos, that's great. If Americans want to gamble from home, it's a societal risk that could exploit children and the poor.
Adelson's lobbying pitch isn't, "Online gambling represents a threat to my bottom line"; but rather, "I'm just looking out for the nation's wellbeing." How magnanimous of him.
For the record, as the Post's report added, Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts, and other major casino enterprises believe "regulated Internet gambling can be done safely and can boost the industry," but not Adelson.
It's tempting to wonder whether the Republicans who benefited from Adelson's generosity in 2012 will be inclined to follow his lead on this issue now, but since so many of his preferred candidates lost on Election Day, it's largely a moot point.
Adelson's lobbying campaign is expected to begin in earnest in the new year.