Sheldon Adelson gears up to battle Internet gambling

The major GOP donor and billionaire casino mogul readies to fight a practice his competitors have embraced

Published November 18, 2013 3:45PM (EST)

Sheldon Adelson          (AP/Wong Maye-e)
Sheldon Adelson (AP/Wong Maye-e)

As the 2012 election showed, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson isn't afraid to throw around some money for a cause he believes in. And according to a Washington Post report, along with his stalwart support for the Israeli right and the GOP, Adelson is taking on a new challenge: banning online gambling in the USA.

Adelson, according to the Post, is preparing a "public campaign" that will argue against legal online gambling, depicting the practice as a menace to children, the poor and the traditional gambling industry itself. Involved in this campaign will be a new advocacy group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, and an army of lobbyists, including former Sen. Blanche Lincoln and former Gov. George Pataki.

On the other side? Not only members of the online gambling industry, but fellow casinos like Caesar's Entertainment and MGM Resorts, both of whom have indicated their support for online gambling.

However substantial Adelson's resources may be, his opponents aren't ready to give up just yet.

“We don’t make a habit of picking fights with billionaires,” John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, told the Washington Post. “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.”

More from the Washington Post:

Adelson's competitors question his concern about the social costs of Internet gambling.  They note that his company obtained an online gambling license in 2003 in one of the British Channel Islands, though Abboud said that was a “small exploratory effort” that was quickly abandoned.

The rivals say they worry his approach would effectively encourage expansion of offshore gambling sites, beyond the reach of U.S. regulators who already have tools to regulate online betting more closely than casino gambling.

“Sheldon’s approach would endanger everything he professes he wanted to protect,” said Jan Jones Blackhurst, executive vice president for government relations at Caesars Entertainment. Adelson argues that a strictly enforced federal ban would effectively shut down black-market gambling.

By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

MORE FROM Elias Isquith

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Billionaire Blanche Lincoln Casino Citizens United George Pataki Online Gambling Sheldon Adelson