Casino cash helps fuel record US election campaign spending


casino-election-spendingA while back, Comedy Central’s Daily Show did a sketch about the unprecedented sums of money being spent in the run-up to the 2012 US presidential and congressional elections (an estimated $6b according to the Center for Responsive Politics – $3b of which will go for television ads). The gist of the bit was that the money spent by the two political parties, the numerous political action committees and individuals like Benjamin, er, Sheldon Adelson represented a bona fide stimulus program for the US economy, so why not have one every year until the US economy gets back on its feet?

As it so happens, the state with one of the worst economies in the union is reaping one of the biggest paydays from this election. The New York Times reports that Nevadans have been bombarded with nearly 75,000 TV ads since the year started and the pace is only accelerating as the race nears its climax. Nevada TVs are now carrying 10,000 ads per week and the finite number of minutes in a day has prompted local news programs to trim their coverage to squeeze in even more spots.

Among the races being heavily promoted is the fight over Dean Heller’s Senate seat. Heller is struggling to hold off Democratic challenger Shelley Berkley, and Karl Rove’s Adelson-backed super PAC Crossroads GPS has announced it intends to spend another $1m in just the next seven days trying to convince Nevadans that Berkley will decorate her house with severed kitten heads this Halloween. This race has particular interest for US poker players, in that Senate majority leader Harry Reid has sandbagged Heller with claims that the Republican has let down Nevada via his alleged inability to garner GOP support for Reid’s online poker bill. Regardless of how Heller fares on Nov. 6, the GOP will surely seek a measure of revenge when Reid’s poker bill arrives on the Senate floor.

It’s no secret that Adelson and his Las Vegas Strip counterpart Steve Wynn are solidly backing Heller, while Las Vegas Sun reporter Karoun Demirjian’s reading of Federal Election Commission numbers show Station Casinos CEO Frank Fertitta III and Caesars Entertainment’s Gary Loveman have provided more support to the Democrats’ Senate ambitions. MGM Resorts’ PAC has hedged its bets, contributing to both sides.

Nationally, even after subtracting Adelson’s unprecedented money bomb,’s database reveals a total of $16m spent by the casino industry through September, about on par with 2008’s spend. Here again, unlike Adelson’s partisan GOP support, the industry has contributed fairly equally to both parties. However, previous years revealed a bigger slice of the pie going to Democrats, suggesting that the industry as a whole is tilting right this year. So far, President Obama is the number one individual recipient of casino campaign cash, followed by Heller, Berkley and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.