Throughout the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump consistently bashed the corrupt cronyism that plagues Washington, D.C. He’s taken on lobbyists and pledged repeatedly to drain the swamp. And he’s promised to usher a new era into the nation’s capital – one that puts people ahead of lobbyists and DC insiders.
But billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson appears to want to test the new President’s commitment to those ideas. Adelson was reluctant to support the President during the Republican primary race. But once he did, Adelson threw his tremendous resources behind then-candidate Trump.
Adelson, whose network is part of D.C.’s old guard, wants two policies stances in return for his checkbook. The first is for President Trump to remain unabashedly pro-Israel – a stance Trump held well in advance of Adelson’s endorsement and shows no sign of wavering from.
The second is for the Trump administration to endorse a massive D.C. power grab in the form of a federal ban of online gaming – a move that overturns decades of policy and sets a terrible precedent of abandoning conservative principles, like states’ rights.
As the owner and proprietor of a multi-billion-dollar brick-and-mortar casino empire who has never been reluctant to swing his weight around, Adelson sees that as a minor challenge. He pledged to spend “whatever it takes” to outlaw online gaming, a move that has endeared him to Rep. Jason Chaffetz and Sen. Lindsey Graham. The two are the most vocal proponents of an online gaming ban, as well as two recipients of Adelson’s campaign spending spree.
What do those campaign contributions buy Adelson? Well, according to The Hill, everything; his lobbyist literally wrote the bill:
Draft legislation to ban online gambling was obtained by The Hill last year. The document’s metadata revealed that a lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands wrote the bill.
Darryl Nirenberg, then of Patton Boggs, was identified as that draft’s author. He is still registered to lobby for Adelson’s company at his new firm, Steptoe & Johnson.
There’s little doubt what’s on Adelson’s mind:
Here’s a brief overview of some of the business topics that Trump and Adelson could cover: […] The rise of daily fantasy sports (DFS) has siphoned off potential casino business in recent years. Trump could theoretically crack down with heightened federal regulations on DFS or he could even push to classify the games as illegal on a federal level. Online/mobile gaming was banned in the U.S. in 2006, but certain states, such as New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware, have since begun allowing Internet gambling within state lines. Adelson and Trump should discuss new legislation/regulations on online gambling.
But President Trump is not easily persuaded. His own personal wealth has heretofore inoculated him from the transactional unpleasantness of DC policymaking.
What’s more, President Trump has supported online gaming in the past. In 2011, he said that online gambling “has to happen.” He went as far as to argue that since other countries were doing it, “like usual” the U.S. was “just missing out.”
He echoed those comments in 2015 as a candidate, when he declared he was “okay with it [sports gambling and fantasy sports] because it’s happening anyway.”
But really, President Trump’s position on online gaming is irrelevant. It’s his position on states’ rights that matter. Should Washington, D.C. tell states they can’t allow online gaming within their own boundaries? Here’s hoping the President takes the side of states.