While Sheldon Adelson’s noisy saber-rattling in support of the Restoration of the Wire Act has become increasingly strident over the past year, it seems that his opponents who support online gambling in America are quietly outspending him in their lobbying efforts on K Street.
The Las Vegas Sands chairman, who believes that online gambling is a “train wreck … a toxicity … a cancer waiting to happen,” has vowed that he will spend “whatever it takes” to prevent the industry from gaining a foothold in America. However, thanks to the publication of recent lobbying filings, we can now see just how much “whatever it takes” actually is.
Adelson’s support of the Restoration of the Wire Act, which seeks to outlaw Internet gambling at a federal level, has seen him, and members of his extended family, donate $15,600 to its primary sponsor, Lindsey Graham. Las Vegas Sands PAC, meanwhile,Â has given him $5,000.
Adelson’s probably spent more than that on a nice lunch in the South of France, so we’re not sure how dazzling those contributions really are.
Beyond those relatively paltry sums, Adelson has set a personal best on his lobbying efforts this year, however. In total, he forked over$290,000 on his anti-online gambling crusade during the second quarter, which brings his yearly total to $460,000, a similar amount in just six months to his spending for the whole of 2008.
Nonetheless, he’s being outspent by Caesars Entertainment, which has splashed out $980,000 lobbying on several issues in the second quarter, including online gaming, which it supports; that’s a total so far this year of almost $1.8 million, just shy of the amount it spent for the whole of last year. Caesars has an online gaming presence in Nevada and New Jersey, of course, through its WSOP.com brand, so its lobbying has a self-protective interest to it.
Boyd Gaming, through its ownership of the Borgata Casino in Atlantic City, runs the market-leading online poker site in New Jersey with 888, and has also been spending heavily, to the tune of $230,000, in an effort to defeat the Restoration of the Wire Act. The Kentucky-based racino Churchill Downs, meanwhile, spent $95,000, while MGM Resorts shelled out $240,000 so far this year on several issues, including online gaming.
Interestingly, while Steve Wynn, of Wynn Resorts, recently said he broadly supported Adelson in the casino wars over online gaming, he has declined to put his money where his mouth is. Wynn has spent zero this year on the issue, although last year his company spent $80,000 on “international taxation and Internet gambling issues.”
Restrictions on financial lobbying in the US have been lifted recently, following a ruling of the Supreme Court in the McCutcheon versus the Federal Election Commission case. The court revised aggregate limits on the amount an individual can donate to political candidates and parties, meaning that the financial straightjackets are off, and it’s practically a free market on buying political influence.
However, while the pro-online gambling brigade are currently outspending Adelson in their lobbying efforts, in terms of pure political capital, they still have a lot of catching up to do. A lifetime of cozying up to the Republican Party has bought Adelson a lot of friends in high places.
In 2011, the LVS chairman and his wife Miriam Ochsorn donated $15 million to the pro-Gingrich political action committee “Winning Our Future,” while Mitt Romney benefited from Adelson’s support in 2012, to the tune of $30 million (though obviously he didn’t benefit enough to win the election). During the 2012 cycle, it’s believed that Adelson and his wife donated around $92 million to Republican groups.