Adelson Money May Win Election Seats, But Unlikely to Win Online Gambling Ban

Posted on September 5, 2014

It’s a midterm election year but that isn’t stopping Sheldon Adelson from spreading some money around, as the Daily Beast is reporting, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman will be spending in the neighborhood of $100 million during this election cycle to help Republicans regain control of the Senate.

One of Adelson’s pet projects is his proposed ban on online gambling, and a Republican controlled Senate would go a long way towards those aims –although it will also likely take a change in the Executive Branch for his dream to become a reality.

That being said, Republican control of the Senate doesn’t make  Adelson’s proposed online gambling ban a slam dunk to even get to the president.

First, considering the filibuster rules in place, it would likely take a strong Republican majority in the Senate to get a ban on Internet gambling to pass through the upper house.

Second, The vote itself will almost certainly not fall along party lines, as some Democrats will side with the Adelson ban (Senator Diane Feinstein of California has already jumped on board), while some Republicans will be vehemently opposed to it on ideological grounds.

Basically, whether the Republicans or the Democrats control the Senate following the November mid-terms shouldn’t make much of a difference for online gambling. The most likely outcome is that things continue to progress on the state level, while the federal government remains mired in gridlock.

Also, don’t lose site of the fact that Adelson is vocal on a number of issues besides online gambling, and we don’t really know how he is prioritizing these issues in the candidates he backs.

Still, don’t be complacent! Adelson candidates winning would still be positive momentum for his push to ban online gambling.

The Senate in 2015

So what are the current chances Adelson gets his wish, and the Senate  flips and becomes a Republican controlled legislative body?

That depends on who you ask.

According to the New York Times “UpShot” blog, Republicans have a 67% chance to win control of the Senate.

Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight.com has it closer to 60/40.

The Huffington Post has the Democrats retaining control by a slim 56/44 margin.

The Washington Post gives the Republicans a 63/37 advantage.

Princeton’s Sam Wang (who out Nate Silvered Nate Silver in the last Senate elections in 2012) has the Democrats as 65% favorites to hold on to the Senate.

So what have we learned from the various Internet Senate Predictive Models? We’ve learned that whoever controls the Senate following the 2014 elections will do so by a very slim margin.

Online gaming is not a partisan issue

As noted above, even if Adelson is able to help the Republican party take control of the Senate, it’s unlikely that the new Senate will be able to pass an online gambling ban, as several key Republicans are unlikely to sign-off on his proposed legislation.

Senator Rand Paul is one such person who would oppose this ideologically, but his fellow Senator from the Blue Grass State, and current Senate Minority Leader (and would-be Senate Majority Leader) Mitch McConnell is quite possibly another, as Kentucky relies heavily on horseracing, and online horseracing, which would be exempt under Adelson’s bill. And this may be a hypocrisy that goes a bit too far.

McConnell is key to the Republicans winning the Senate and would become the Majority Leader which makes him an all important cog in the Adelson machine. The problem is he may not support an online gambling ban, we simply don’t know yet.

Then there are the two Georgia Senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson (Georgia has online lottery sales which would be prohibited under Adelson’s ban) who we haven’t heard from yet. Ditto for Mark Kirk of Illinois, where online lottery sales are also in place.

Or, what about Nevada Senator Dean Heller, who would have to explain to his home state why he decided to repeal their current law permitting online poker?

Adelson’s impact

Not to disagree with the Daily Beast’s assertion that “Adelson is known for being a hands-on donor who makes decisions carefully,” but, well, sorry, I have to disagree with the second half of this statement.

In 2012, Adelson pumped mid-eight-figures into the presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich (yeah, Newt Gingrich was Adelson’s first choice for President in 2012) before doing an about face and sending a similar amount of money into the campaign coffers of Mitt Romney and his Super PACs. Keep in mind that a lot of the Adelson money sent to Gingrich’s Super PAC was used to discredit Romney.

Adelson has also been cutting checks to just about any lobbyist willing to stand on a street corner and inform the masses about the evils of online gambling. So far all he’s gotten in return are some feeble op-eds and a stable full of talking heads who can’t seem to keep from making the opposition’s case FOR regulation.

While he certainly has the money to influence elections, Adelson seems to abide by the adage that anything can be fixed if you throw enough money at it… Unfortunately for him, that doesn’t always work in practice.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is a well-recognized voice in the regulated U.S. online gambling industry. He writes for a number of online and print publications including OnlinePokerReport.com, USA Today, and others, with a focus on the legal market.

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