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Sheldon Adelson is many things: casino magnate, founder and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, multi-billionaire, Republican Party donor, newspaper owner, and lobbyist. The elderly businessman regularly uses his money to influence organizations and laws, which is how the online poker and gambling community got to know him. To an industry that thrives on the internet version of its games to survive and grow, Adelson has become the enemy.

The online poker industry became uncomfortably familiar with Adelson after Black Friday, when all legitimate online gaming operators were forced out of the United States market. Specifically, in late 2011, when the Department of Justice ruled that the Wire Act did not pertain to online lotteries or gaming, Adelson came out in staunch opposition to that ruling. In the years that followed, individual American states had to begin researching the possibility of legalizing and regulating their own online poker and gaming businesses from scratch, and Adelson fought it every step of the way.

Fighting with Money

Adelson never hesitates to put his money into the fulfillment of his wishes. That began when he saw that states like Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey were willing to legalize online gambling in some form. The billionaire took his fight to the lobbying world by launching the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling in 2013. While those three states ignored CSIG’s campaign and began regulating internet gaming anyway, Adelson focused his energy primarily on Congress.

Not only did Adelson donate heavily to candidates on the state and federal level who would support his efforts to ban online gambling, he held them to task. By 2015, his benefactors had gotten behind a bill called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which never gained enough support to pass but has been introduced and reintroduced several times in the past several years. He staffed CSIG with lobbyists, public relations experts, and former politicians to push RAWA in the hopes of banning online gambling on the federal level and removing the ability for states to operate those internet games on their own.

Adelson has been relentless in his efforts. He supported several of the Republican candidates for the 2016 presidential race, as well as Senator Jeff Sessions, a Trump supporter and now-nominee for the position of US Attorney General. With all indications that Sessions will receive Congressional approval for the job, that puts Sessions in the position to strike down the 2011 DOJ ruling, which will stop all states from proceeding with any online gaming activities until courts can ultimately decide the issue. Meanwhile, he continues to push RAWA as an official ban on internet gambling as well.


Fighting with Lies

Officially, Adelson cites several reasons for his opposition to online gambling, including the vulnerability of the poor, elderly, and young; the potential for money laundering, financing terrorism, and inciting criminal activity; the exploitation of people with gambling addictions; and the negative impact on jobs and economic activity.

“Click a Mouse and Lose Your House” has been the campaign slogan.


What Adelson truly fears is the impact that online gambling might have on his personal wealth, as he fears the industry would infringe upon the profits of his many casinos around the world, the most lucrative and dependable of which are located in the United States.

His arguments have all been debunked by many in the gambling industry and experts in their respective fields. There is no evidence that online gambling has ever been linked to terrorism or rampant money laundering, nor has the industry had any negative impact on jobs. In fact, online gaming creates jobs and improves economic activity, as evidenced by 2016 statistics from Atlantic City showing that revenue from internet poker and casino games created an increase for the year, the first since 2006 with a struggling land-based casino environment. Instead of cannibalizing casino gambling, internet gaming is proving to enhance and compliment it.

In addition, numerous studies show that the technology behind modern internet gaming is advanced enough to prohibit underage gambling, detect potential for problem players, and restrict games to specific locations via geolocation. None of his claims are true or based on modern-day facts.

Fighting Back by Pointing out His Hypocrisy

While those in support of online gaming in the US have continuously spoken against Adelson’s representatives at hearings and meetings, it doesn’t seem to have much impact. Adelson and his organization simply repeat the lies, only louder and with more feeling.

Using Adelson’s own casino history and legal losses may be the best way to fight him. The Las Vegas Sands has been cited for numerous violations of laws through the years, many involving underage gamblers caught in his casinos. For instance, Adelson has paid more than $400,000 in fines for his single casino in Pennsylvania alone since 2010.

Just this year, a few weeks into 2017, Sands Bethlehem was fined $50,000 by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for an incident involving five underage gamblers who were also drinking in the establishment. And Las Vegas Sands agreed to pay a criminal penalty of nearly $7 million in a federal case involving an employee in Macau and the company’s associated violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Adelson is the king of hypocrisy, as he fights online gaming because of his concerns about underage gambling and illegal activities, all the while facing regular accusations of criminal wrongdoing and allowing underage gamblers in his own casinos, where they not only gamble but engage in other illegal activities like drinking alcohol.

This is the ticket to discrediting and fighting Adelson when it comes to gambling practices.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.