Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson says he’s willing to “spend whatever it takes” to kill online gambling in the United States. The crusty casino curmudgeon told Forbes’ Nathan Vardi that his company’s status as the biggest in the biz “compels me to speak out on this issue.” Adelson said he didn’t see “any compelling reason” to legalize internet gambling beyond the self-serving justifications offered up by two of Sands’ domestic competitors, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts. Adelson told Vardi that his online gambling opposition was “a moral issue” and that he saw it as “very harmful to all the companies that go into it.”
Adelson warned his competitors that their online sites might be profitable in the short term but would eventually cannibalize their brick-and-mortar revenues. (Others beg to differ.) “Then the coup de grace, the big social media sites like Facebook, like Twitter, like shmitter, like whoever or Zynga, will come in with a billion hits a day with the name that is popular and respected and a Google will say ‘play with me.’”
Leaving aside his obvious unfamiliarity with social media nomenclature, Adelson’s threat to shovel millions of lobbying dollars at politicians can’t be taken lightly, given his estimated $28.5b personal fortune and his demonstrated willingness to spend over $100m in the last federal election cycle on mostly failed attempts to put Republican party candidates into office.
That said, it’s becoming clear that Adelson isn’t hearing the word ‘no’ often enough during his daily interactions with staff and advisors. Adelson’s billions notwithstanding, with three states now offering some form of online gambling, Republican congressmen aren’t likely to attach an asterisk to their oft-proclaimed commitment to states’ rights just because an eccentric octogenarian likely not long for this world throws his toys out of the pram. Adelson’s overreach hasn’t confined itself to US shores, as witnessed by his attempt this summer to strong-arm the Spanish government into repealing their online gambling laws or else he’d take his EuroVegas billions and go home.
If Adelson’s campaign has any success, it will likely be at the state level, convincing a few governors to veto any moves to join Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey in the online arena. Pennsylvania has been tapped as a likely contender to pass online gambling legislation in 2014, but Sands operates the state’s most successful land-based casino, so expect lots of state politicians to be suddenly rolling in Adelbucks when the legislature resumes the online gambling debate.
Meanwhile, we eagerly await Adelson’s next King Canute-worthy attempt to keep progress at bay. No doubt Sheldon fondly remembers a day when the streets weren’t plagued by all these damnable horseless carriages, which allow young people to travel far enough away from their parents’ sight to commit all manner of immoral acts while ‘parking’ with members of the opposite sex. Adelson could emerge on Monday clutching a raft of Sands-sponsored studies demonstrating that in every jurisdiction where the internet has taken root, pony express operations have seen a startling decline in business. And don’t get him started on the fact that Shirley Temple was never seen twerking up against Bill Robinson.