Prominent politics and commentary site Politico.com checked in this week on the anti-online gambling machinations of Sheldon Adelson, courtesy of a lengthy piece by Jon Ralston (“Ralston Reports”) that explores Adelson’s hypocritical but deep-pocketed war and his deteriorating relationship with the American Gaming Association.
Ralston tries to grab the readers by declaring that Adelson is “terrified” of web gaming, but no, it’s not quite that. It’s more likely that Adelson sees a two-for-one opportunity here: By throwing as many roadblocks in front of internet gambling as possible, he can continue exploiting his land-based casinos’ profitability as long as possible, and as a bonus continue to damage the bottom lines of his direct industry competitors, who have looked aggressively toward the new online gambling space.
Foremost among those, admittedly, is World Series of Poker brandholder Caesars Entertainment, another major AGA contributor which has struggled under a multi-billion-dollar debt load for a decade.
Adelson, who spoke to Politico’s Ralston for the piece, took swipes at both the AGA and Caesars. Ralston put unspoken words in the mouth of new AGA boss Geoff Freeman by inferring that Freeman and the AGA were “essentially calling [Adelson] foolish,” since Adelson’s LV Sands, a prominent AGA member now stands diametrically opposed to the AGA’s own support of regulated online gambling expansion.
That increasing rift has been explored by this writer and others in earlier commentary on the situation, and as Ralston confirmed, that rift is doing nothing but widen. As Adelson told Politico, “Well, I’m considering withdrawing from the organization…. You must understand, I don’t want our dues going to hurt our society.”
Adelson’s sudden attack of social conscience hasn’t fooled many onlookers, who haven’t overlooked that LV Sands currently allows mobile gaming for real money throughout all of Nevada, or that Adelson himself had no problems with hosting the prominent NAPT Venetian poker tourney back in 2010, prominently sponsored by… PokerStars.net.
While the Venetian/Stars relationship later fell apart, Stars was thought fondly enough of to also have been embraced by Steve Wynn of Wynn Gaming, with an online pact between Wynn and PokerStars cancelled only after Stars’ Black Friday problems in 2011. But now Wynn has joined Adelson in the minority view among AGA members that online gambling is… bad for America.
Adelson has had a long history of deep spending to try to achieve his political wishes. He once spent millions to defeat a Nevada Senatorial bid by his own former accountant, Shelley Berkley, who narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Dean Heller. Berkley previously departed Adelson’s casino empire in disgust after experiencing the depths of Adelson’s union-busting tactics, which went well beyond normal management disdain for collective bargaining.
Within the US, however, keeping Berkley out of the US Senate was one of Adelson’s few “successes”. Adelson became famous in 2012 for sinking at least $10 million into the hopeless presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich, and after Gingrich inevitably faltered, Adelson donated a few million more to Mitt Romney. Adelson was probably the 2012 campaign’s single largest political greaser, even if it barely made a dent in his personal $35 million fortune.
Adelson built the bulk of that fortune the same way, via graft and political bribery, paying untold millions to Macau and Chinese officials to obtain a virtual mega-casino monopoly in that Asian gambling mecca.
Adelson ran afoul of US corruption laws for that gambit, but he didn’t care; his three bribery-funded Macau properties dwarf even his luxurious Venetian and Palazzo casino-resorts in Las Vegas, and they’ve provided enough billions in profit for Adelson and LVSands that they’ve now been able to weather the recent down years in the US land-based industry.
It’s a touch of delicious irony: A brand new web ad released by the Adelson-funded Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) broadly takes a swipe at Caesars and other pro-gaming AGA members — and perhaps the AGA itself — by referring to them as “disreputable gaming operators.”
But historically, there may be no more disreputable gaming operator that LV Sands and its CEO, Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson continues to show his disdain for other US casino-entertainment companies as well. As he told Politico, referring to Caesars:
“They’re completely broke. You know, the old expression, ‘If you’re so smart, why ain’t you rich? If they’re so smart, why aren’t they successful? I’ll tell you the truth: I don’t think they know what they’re doing.”
That Adelson’s own success has been so heavily dependent on breaking the US’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act probably should have been played up a bit more in the Politico piece, but it wasn’t. Such is the price of trying to present both sides of an issue and maintain a neutrality that ensures possible future interview privileges.
We won’t worry about such deliberate neutrality here; bad deeds need to be exposed. Adelson’s been widely described as “evil” by those who know him, and he never fails to fulfill his advance billing. No less an independent-speaking man than poker’s Nolan Dalla (who does, for the record, have a relationship with Caesars and the WSOP) accurately characterized Adelson when he described Adelson as “America’s most despicable billionaire.”
And that, dear readers, is the truth.
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