Passage of Nevada Energy Bill Reveals Limits of Adelson’s Political Clout

Posted on: June 6, 2017, 02:51h. 

Last updated on: June 6, 2017, 02:57h.

Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is a powerful man. Not only has he been able to grind virtually all online gambling legislation to a halt whenever something starts to move forward, but also he’s been able to use his money and influence to shape conversation on any number of political issues for which he holds a special interest.

Sheldon Adelson AB 206
Sheldon Adelson has given less attention to online gambling lately, focusing instead on political winds swirling around his shifting positions on Nevada’s renewable energy requirements for casinos. (Image: Politico.com)

Most recently in Nevada, his home state, he’s been trying to stop renewable energy, a position that has him and his supporters framing wind and solar power initiatives as evil as internet poker.

As Nevada’s biennial legislative session came to a close over the weekend, reports by liberal-leaning Adelson watchdog Truth-Out.org chronicled the cantankerous casino magnate’s efforts to block AB 206, which would direct Nevada to derive 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

Adelson’s Energy Flip-Flop

When AB 206 went before the Assembly in May, it passed with a healthy margin of 30 to 12. It then passed the Democrat-controlled Senate on a 12-9 party-line vote in early June. Now it goes to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, who is expected to sign the measure, despite opposition from his own party and Adelson.

Back in 2016, Adelson was one of the most ardent supporters of “Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices.” The idea behind this ballot initiative was to give electricity customers the ability to opt out of purchasing their power from NV Energy, which holds a state-wide monopoly as a public utility.

Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands supported the initiative financially. They were the biggest backers for Nevadans for Affordable, Clean Energy Choices, and spoke out publicly about the casino’s desire to use the cleanest energy available in an open market.

But as Truth-Out.org has suggested, Adelson’s intentions might not have been so “green” after all.

Political Power Play

In late April, after aggressive lobbying for the ability of casinos to split with NV Energy and procure their own power, Adelson and Sands switched teams, joining NV Energy to lobby against AB 206.

Adelson and NV Energy would later be joined by Wynn Resorts, and would garner support of the Nevada Resorts Association (the other NRA), representing the casino-resort interests in Nevada. But that coalition didn’t get all big casinos on board with fighting the renewable energy bill.

While Caesars Entertainment took no official position, MGM Resorts came out in support of AB 206 at the end of May, which may have helped secure the votes needed to defeat Adelson, or at least given Sandoval the space necessary to consider signing a bill that key industry influencers opposed.

Now we’ll see what influence a major Republican political donor may or may not hold over Sandoval, who is more than halfway through his final, term-limited four-year post as governor.

Adelson gave a pro-Donald Trump super PAC $25 million during the 2016 presidential campaign, and another $5 million toward Trump’s inaugural festivities. He gave $300,000 to Sandoval’s political action committee in 2014.

Sandoval still has the authority to veto the state’s renewable energy bill. But it’s more likely he will sign it, revealing at least to some the limits of Adelson’s power.