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Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, head of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, was in the news all over the place last week.
First, he personally popped up in Singapore a few days ago to ask the Singapore Government for extra land to expand his casino resort there by about 60%.
Las Vegas Sands would like to add another 1, 500 rooms to the Marina Bay Sands, which today only has about 2, 500 rooms. Extra space for more meeting rooms, exhibitions and ballrooms would also be throne into the mix.
Adelson said there “We need more rooms”, adding “We are running at 100% occupancy; on a very bad day it’s 98%. No other hotel in the world runs like this except some in Vegas.”
The US$6 billion Marina Bay Sands resort opened four years ago when the Singapore government decided to permit gambling in the city-state. As Adelson pointed out the resort “has been a catalyst for enormous tourism growth.”
With over 1 million square feet of meeting and convention space already, and two theatres for Broadway shows marina Sands has become a favourite gambling destination in the Asian market which, together with his Macau resorts, Adelson dominates. Las Vegas Sands earlier announced willingness to spend US$10 billion in Japan as well if the government there would open up the country – Japanese businessmen are among the regions biggest gamblers.
Then the Poker Players Alliance, a US national organization of poker players, which is strongly in favour of online gambling came out on Friday, predicting that as soon as this week we could see the introduction of renewed federal anti-online gambling legislation in the United States.
Marina Bay Sands
Online gambling is something Sheldon is on record as firmly opposing, unlike some of his physical casino competitors who are trying to popularize it in New Jersey and Nevada, where State laws have now been passed which legalize it under strict geo-location conditions.
The PPA now believes that Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina will introduce a new bill into the US Senate to ban online gambling, and to override these new state laws. It had always been thought to be illegal in the past, but recent Federal Justice Department guidelines had appeared to soften the Federal Government’s position against it, thus allowing individual States to step in.
According to the PPA Senator Graham may be planning to introduce the bill, together with Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, calling for a renewed federal ban on internet gambing. Chaffetz is on record as seeking to “restore a longstanding United States policy that the Wire Act prohibits all forms of Internet gambling.”
In opposing online gambling Sheldon Adelson has an obvious business interest, as it I something new that would compete with his bricks and mortar casinos. But he also claims it is bad for people on social behavioural grounds, and indeed there are likely many people who would not disagree.
As he puts it “We support and applaud all efforts to restore the long-standing interpretation that the Wire Act prohibits Internet gambling. It’s common sense that putting a virtual casino in the pocket of every American with a phone is bad public policy.”
Finally, according to the Washington Post, Sheldon Adelson, who is a consummate practitioner of the discreet art of political lobbying, through its many indirect and direct forms is hosting an important political dinner next week in Las Vegas.
He and his wife Miriam Adelson will host the dinner as part of a senior Republican Party event taking place there. Many top Republican politicians will attend, including former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who may also take the opportunity to quietly sound out his Republican colleagues about a potential run for President in 2016.
Indeed Jeb Bush will be the featured speaker at the exclusive VIP dinner on Thursday, hosted by Adelson and his wife, Miriam, at his company’s private airplane hangar at the Las Vegas airport.
The Adelsons’ dinner for Bush will kick off the Republican Jewish Coalition’s four-day spring leadership meeting, during which politicians and major GOP donors will mingle at golf and poker tournaments, as well as in political strategy sessions.
As an influential political fund raiser, to say that Adelson plays an important role in the US Republican party would of course be a major understatement.