Did Sheldon Adelson Just Turn the Entire GOP Presidential Field Against Internet Poker?

The megadonor’s involvement in 2016 is a test of how big money could influence politics at the highest levels.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
March 25, 2014, 8:09 a.m.

The Shel­don Ad­el­son primary is already un­der­way. As Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial hope­fuls pre­pare to meet with Ad­el­son at an ex­clus­ive gath­er­ing in Las Ve­gas this week, The Wash­ing­ton Post is out with a telling re­port.

The bil­lion­aire mogul and casino mag­nate who spent more than $92 mil­lion on los­ing pres­id­ent can­did­ates in 2012 in­tends to put his money be­hind the Re­pub­lic­an with the clearest shot at win­ning the White House in 2016, ac­cord­ing to people fa­mil­i­ar with his think­ing. (Ad­el­son al­most single-handedly kept Newt Gin­grich alive dur­ing the 2012 Re­pub­lic­an primar­ies be­fore go­ing on to back an­oth­er loser, Mitt Rom­ney.)

“The bar for sup­port is go­ing to much high­er,” Andy Ab­boud, a top polit­ic­al ad­viser to Ad­el­son and ex­ec­ut­ive at Ad­el­son’s Las Ve­gas Sands Corp., told The Post. “There’s go­ing to be a lot more scru­tiny.”

While Ad­el­son has said that his de­cision will be gov­erned by elect­ab­il­ity, there is one pet is­sue of his that stands above all the rest: his push to kill on­line gambling.

Ad­el­son has already found cham­pi­ons for the leg­lislat­ive ef­fort in GOP Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham. Gra­ham is ex­pec­ted to in­tro­duce a Sen­ate bill later this week restor­ing the pre-2011 fed­er­al ban on In­ter­net gam­ing; Chaf­fetz will in­tro­duce a com­pan­ion meas­ure in the House.

The op­tics aren’t par­tic­u­larly good.

While Chaf­fetz has long ex­pressed skep­ti­cism about on­line poker, Gra­ham has been si­lent on the is­sue un­til now. The lat­ter’s in­terest co­in­cides with a cash in­fu­sion from Ad­el­son, who dropped more than $15,000 on his 2014 bid to earn reelec­tion, as Na­tion­al Journ­al re­por­ted last week. While Gra­ham’s Sen­ate cam­paign isn’t thought to be in any real danger, prudent polit­ic­al al­li­ances could be part of the reas­on he’s sur­vived on the Hill as long as he has.

Pres­id­en­tial hope­ful Rick Perry (R) has also joined the fun, call­ing for a “time-out” for in­ter­net gambling in a let­ter to Con­gres­sion­al lead­er­ship and lead­er­ship of the House and Sen­ate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tees on Monday. Perry re­ceived fund­ing from Ad­el­son dur­ing his gubernat­ori­al cam­paign in 2007.

Mean­while, Ad­el­son has hired former Demo­crat­ic Sen. Blanche Lin­coln to help him with the push.

There’s no ques­tion that Ad­el­son is will­ing to spend mil­lions to stop In­ter­net gambling, the ex­ist­ence of which he feels threatens his brick-and-mor­tar busi­ness. And giv­en the tens of mil­lions he spent in 2012, GOP pres­id­en­tial con­tenders will be hard put to ig­nore him.

So will those pres­sures help turn every GOP pres­id­en­tial con­tender against In­ter­net poker? We’ll see.

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