Here’s an understatement for you: Sheldon Adelson is not the biggest fan of online gambling, and online gamblers are not the biggest fans of Sheldon Adelson. The Las Vegas Sands CEO and chairman has made plenty of anti-online gambling comments in the past, a move that led to backlash by the online gambling community, and online poker players in particular. Now, Adelson is planning a full campaign against online gambling regulation in the United States – one that certainly won’t win him any friends among those who like placing bets on the Internet.
Online Gambling “Dangers”
According to reports, Adelson is working on a public campaign that will present online gambling as a danger to society. In particular, the campaign will attempt to paint online gambling as dangerous to children and the poor, among others who could be harmed by access to casino and poker games in their homes.
As was widely reported in the 2012 presidential campaign, Adelson has no problem spending money while showing support for candidates, and it appears he’s ready to use that same super-donor strategy on this subject. While he has certainly made his feelings on the issue known before, he had yet to take any large scale steps in legislative debates, and that appears to be the direction he’s headed in now.
The casino mogul has already started putting together a team to help him fight the spread of online gambling. He has hired lobbyists and PR professionals – not only in Washington, D.C., but also in state capitals throughout the country. The issue of Internet gambling was already expected to attract plenty of lobbying in numerous states before 2014, and Adelson’s resources will only make that battle more intense.
Adelson plans to start his campaign in the months to come. In January, he reportedly plans to officially form the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, an advocacy group that will seek to represent demographics that could be damaged by online gambling, such as children. The group will hope to align with organizations that might also be against Internet gambling, including those representing women, African Americans and Hispanics. It’s all part of a strategy that Adelson’s staff says is intensely important to him – important enough for him to have about two dozen experts working on the issue on a nearly full-time basis.
“In my 15 years of working with him, I don’t think I have ever seen him this passionate about any issue,” said Adelson political adviser Andy Abboud.
Opponents Ready for a Fight
But Adelson will have some powerful opponents in this fight as well. Other online gambling firms that have embraced the Internet – such as Caesars and MGM – plan to counter his efforts. They’ll argue that if online gambling becomes illegal and unregulated, it’ll exist as a black market with no protection for the players who will inevitably participate whether the games are regulated or not – as has certainly been proven in the past. And they pointed out that even Adelson’s billions don’t guarantee victory – a lesson that he learned in several of those political races that he spent the multimillions on in 2012.
The Poker Players Alliance – which is no stranger to battling the Sands CEO over online poker – also plans to fight against his campaign.
“We don’t make a habit of picking fights with billionaires,” said PPA Executive Director John Pappas. “But in this case, I think we’ll win, because millions of Americans who want to play online will oppose this legislation, along with dozens and dozens of states that want the freedom to authorize any kind of gaming they see fit.”
Whether Adelson’s motivations are purely altruistic, or stem from an irrational fear that the spread of online gaming could cut into his land casino profits, remains unclear; but as the ony major casino industry kingpin who is dead set against the Internet as a gambling venue, it’s one of those things that could make you go “hmmmmm”.