In September of last year, 20 different Attorneys General from states across the union filed briefs in favor of New Jersey in the state’s Supreme Court sports betting case. Despite being the only state with fully regulated sports betting, Nevada was not one of them.
That is fine, maybe the state wanted to preserve its status as the only place where casino sports wagering takes place. It has other gambling-related advantages over other states too. For example, Nevada is one of three states with regulated online gambling.
But when it came to protecting that industry, the very same AG opted not to do so. Instead, in 2016, he was one of 10 state AGs who sent a letter to President Donald Trump’s transition team urging the new administration to revisit the Department of Justice’s opinion on the Federal Wire Act.
That Attorney General is Nevada’s Adam Laxalt. And now he is the frontrunner to be the Republican candidate for Nevada Governor.
Laxalt a rare anti-gambling Nevada lawmaker
The state’s current leader, Gov. Brian Sandoval, is term-limited and cannot run for re-election. Like Laxalt, Sandoval is a member of the Republican party. Unlike Laxalt, expanding online gambling was one of Sandoval’s top priorities during his time in office.
When Laxalt signed that 2016 letter encouraging the DOJ to reconsider its narrow opinion of the Wire Act, he allegedly drew Sandoval’s ire. By encouraging a wider interpretation of the Wire Act, Laxalt is effectively urging the federal government to deem the online poker and sports betting happening in Nevada illegal.
Such an interpretation would shut down the existing online gambling industries in Delaware and New Jersey. It would affect the forthcoming Pennsylvania iGaming industry as well.
Look no further than Adelson to explain Laxalt’s stance
Laxalt is not the only leader in Nevada who stands in stark contrast to most others in the gaming industry. Sands Corp CEO Sheldon Adelson is also ardently against online gambling. He is also one of the top political donors to both Trump and Laxalt.
Dan Schwartz, another GOP contender for Governor, frequently points to Laxalt’s position in Adelson’s pocket when campaigning. Schwartz is currently the State Treasurer. He is considered a bit of a maverick compared to other GOP lawmakers, with views on both sides of the political spectrum.
While it is clear where Laxalt stands on the subject of online casinos, it is not clear where the rest of the field stands. Given that neither Schwartz nor Democratic frontrunner Steve Sisolak ever mention the subject, it seems they are okay with the online poker status quo.
The deadline to file as a candidate was Friday. Now the race is about to get serious. There are numerous contenders in both primaries, but with the heft of Adelson behind him, online players in Nevada should probably start worrying about Laxalt.
Photo by David Calvert / Stringer