Sheldon Adelson Doesn't Like Gambling, Unless It's In His Casinos

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The man who spent tens of millions dollars not getting Mitt Romney elected is now launching an even bigger fight in an attempt to keep gambling off the Internet. The Washington Post reports that Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire political donor who is believed to have put more money into the 2012 election than any other individual, is launching a new advocacy group called the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, that will push states to ban online gaming. He's already lined up some political heavy hitters as lobbyists, including a former Senator and former governor, and has prepared to wage political war on a scale that could dwarf his 2012 contributions.

Why is he doing this? To protect the children, of course. The Post reports  But it also might have something to do with the fact that the $98 million he reportedly donated during the last election cycle was mostly earned through gambling winnings. Adelson owns the Las Vegas Sands casino empire, which includes two major hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas strip, and still others in Macau and Singapore. If everyone in the United States could gamble from the comfort of their home, they'd have no reason to visit any of his casinos. New Jersey is set to launch online gaming next week, with games available only to those physically in New Jersey, and operated by the existing Atlantic City casinos.

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Critics of Adelson's effort say that the failure to create safe, regulated online gambling only leads to a lucrative black market where Americans deposits millions of dollars with offshore gaming operations and have very little assurance that they will ever get their money back. (Not to mention the thousands of amateur bookies making tax-free money at home.) Adelson's advisors, however, say he's worried about a 'Joe Camel' moment, implying that if gambling goes online, it will look like the industry is pushing gambling on kids, and that will give the government an excuse to crackdown on all forms of gambling. Again, for the kids.

Even if that were true, it still means that Adelson is ultimately just concerned with his bottom line. Online gambling means more competition for his very profitable casinos and the end of the Vegas-Atlantic City monopoly (which has already been weakened by the rise of "Indian casinos" and other state gaming.)

Despite the fact that his previous attempts to influence American politics yielded little fruit, Adelson remains undeterred. One of his top lieutenants told the Post, "In my 15 years of working with him, I don't think I have ever seen him this passionate about any issue." Maybe no other issue has been a bigger threat to his empire.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.