Internet Gaming

Sheldon Adelson’s Priorities Won’t Block Changes at Sands or Nationally, Experts Predict

Las Vegas Sands (LVS) could soon embrace online gaming despite long-time opposition from CEO Sheldon Adelson, who died on Jan. 11, industry experts said.

Then-President Donald Trump awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson in 2018. The widow of Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson could play a key role in shaping the company’s priorities, such as on online gaming. (Image: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

His legacy will not lead to prohibitions against online gambling or sports betting initiatives at the company. Instead, opportunities exist for LVS in these areas in an overall climate where gaming expansion is expected to continue, the experts add.

“Now that Adelson is gone, I expect the company to begin moving into online gaming,” Robert Jarvis, a law professor at Florida’s Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard College of Law, recently told Casino.org.

I have no doubt that the company’s new and future leaders — … people like Robert Goldstein [acting chairman and CEO] and Patrick Dumont [executive vice president and chief financial officer] — know that online gaming is the wave of the future,” Jarvis added.

Similarly, the Rev. Richard McGowan, a finance professor at Boston College who closely follows gambling trends, also predicts the adoption of online gambling “now appears to be inevitable in most states, so it makes no sense trying to fight the tide.”

Even before Adelson’s death, LVS officials were reportedly mulling getting into the booming sports wagering business, Casino.org revealed earlier this month.

Also, if LVS shifts from opposing online gaming to supporting it, US Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, and other Republicans are likely to become supporters, too, “if for no other reason than to keep the campaign funding spigots open,” Jarvis added.

One potential impediment to LVS expanding into online gaming is the role of Adelson’s widow: Miriam Adelson.

“Of course, given her large stake in the company, Adelson’s widow … could block any change. But I think even she will come around, if, in fact, she shared Adelson’s opposition,” Jarvis predicted.

Last year, Sheldon Adelson made several equity transfers moving stock he owned into a trust in his wife’s name. Those transactions resulted in Miriam’s net worth vaulting to $22 billion in June 2019. Sheldon Adelson was worth an estimated $35.1 billion when he passed away.

Adelson Was Influential in DOJ’s Wire Act Revised Opinion

When looking at his legacy, Sheldon Adelson’s “most significant” impact in online gaming were his “successful efforts to have the Department of Justice [DOJ] return to a very restrictive reading of the federal Wire Act,” in 2018, said Anthony Cabot, Distinguished Fellow of Gaming Law at UNLV’s Boyd School of Law, to Casino.org.

“But that successful effort was for naught. The federal District Court in New Hampshire rejected the DOJ’s interpretation. Consequently, the market for internet and interactive gaming, particularly sports wagering, has grown significantly,” Cabot added.

He further predicted earlier this week that Adelson’s passing would not impact the decision’s appeal. The US First Circuit Court of Appeals released its ruling on the New Hampshire lottery case on Wednesday.

Basically, it concludes that the Wire Act only applies to sports gambling. The DOJ argued in its recent directive the Wire Act governs most bets or wagers.

Experts Debate if Adelson’s Passing Will Impact Texas

On another front where Adelson’s passing could have an impact, Sands hired multiple lobbyists last year in a push to legalize commercial casinos in Texas.

When asked about the Texas lobbying initiative and Adelson’s death, national gaming expert Clyde Barrow, chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley, noted how Sands is a “well-established gaming company and its success and plans are not dependent on any one person, including Sheldon Adelson.

“I have no doubt that the company’s lobbying effort to legalize casino gaming in Texas will continue without interruption,” Barrow predicted to Casino.org. “In fact, the issue has now taken on a life of its own that goes beyond Las Vegas Sands’ lobbying effort. Many other companies and entities are now getting involved in this effort.”

But a leading expert on Texas politics, Mark P. Jones, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute, said the state’s outlook for legalized commercial casinos is bleak given Adelson’s death, and more significantly that Texas, after all, may not need a revenue generator like casinos.

“The hopes of Texas casino gambling advocates were dashed on Jan. 11,” Jones told Casino.org. “First, in the morning Comptroller Glenn Hegar … released his official budget estimate, which, while not positive, was much less dire than that which he had previously released.”

As a result, Texas legislators became “notably less desperate to find new sources of revenue than they were in the fall,” Jones explained. Then, later that same day, Adelson died.

“In sum, between the morning and evening of Jan. 11, casino gambling advocates went from having two aces up their sleeve — a large looming budget deficit and the involvement of one of the GOP’s most prolific donors — to having nothing, leaving them in the same position they have been in during the previous few legislative sessions, with neither a compelling budgetary argument nor a convincing pitchman in support of their cause,” Jones said.

“The prospects for the legalization of casino gambling in Texas in 2021 are, at best, extremely remote, and at worst, nonexistent,” Jones added. “Without Adelson spearheading the initiative, casino gambling legislation has a snow flake’s chance in Las Vegas in July of passing during the 2021 session of the Texas Legislature.”

Ed Silverstein

Gaming Law, Tribal Gaming, Crime, Gaming Research----An award-winning journalist with credits ranging from the Associated Press to American Lawyer Media, Ed joined the Casino.org news team in 2019 with decades of legal reporting expertise under his belt. His past reporting and editing assignments include Cowles Business Media, Columbia University Press, the Connecticut Post, and Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc. Besides the law and its application to the gaming industry, Ed’s areas of expertise span business, courts, crime, politics, education, and state and local government. With an undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut (where he now lives), and master’s degrees from Harvard and Yale, Ed’s professional awards include recognition from the New England Press Association and New England AP News Executives. Email: ed.silverstein@casino.org

Published by
Ed Silverstein