The so-called “Sheldon Adelson primary“ is going on this weekend in Las Vegas, and the stance of various Republican contenders on regulated online gambling will come into play.
Online gambling to share center stage
The Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual spring meeting, hosted by Adelson, takes on additional significance during the presidential cycle. Adelson, the casino mogul billionaire, is considered to hold huge sway in the Republican Party.
Candidates will be at his Venetian hotel and casino this weekend to ostensibly court the Republican donor. And not surprisingly, one of Adelson’s top issues — his opposition to online gaming and poker — will come into play:
I’m also told that Adelson plans to ask pointed questions of the candidates on online gaming. He will want real answers, not pabulum. 2/2
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) April 24, 2015
Adelson is currently spearheading a bill in Congress called the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), which seeks to ban online gambling and poker in the United States. That includes Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, which currently have regulated iGaming.
While the issue Adelson is generally most concerned with is Israel, online gaming is a hot-button issue for the billionaire right now. He is also the force behind the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.
The candidates, and where they stand
So if iGaming is an issue that will help Adelson figure out where to spend his money in the Republican primaries, how do the contenders stack up?
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the candidates hopeful to get Adelson’s support, and money:
- Gov. Rick Perry (Texas): Perry is one of the few candidates on the record for the issue of iGaming. He wrote a letter to Congress last year calling for a”‘time-out” for online gaming “by restoring the decades-long interpretation of the Wire Act.” (That refers to a 2011 DOJ opinion that limited the Wire Act to sports betting, a decision RAWA is trying to reverse.)
- Former Gov. Jeb Bush (Florida): Likely to support RAWA, or to fight iGaming via the Department of Justice. Online Poker Report handicapped where he stands on the issue.
- Sen. Marco Rubio (Florida): Rubio is on the record as being opposed to iGaming, and Adelson monetary support would likely lock in his support for RAWA and a ban on online gaming. He could also come down on the side of states’ rights, however. Since there’s not a Senate version of RAWA, yet, he hasn’t come out vocally in support of the bill, or as a sponsor.
- Gov. Scott Walker (Wisconsin): Walker isn’t really on the record for iGaming. But he has received Adelson money in the past, and it seems like he would come down on Adelson’s side on RAWA and an onling gaming ban. Although, it’s tough to predict what the mercurial and controversial governor will do, so it’s still possible he views it as a states’ rights issue.
- Gov. Chris Christie (New Jersey): Adelson and Christie actually have history on iGaming. New Jersey actually passed legislation allowing online gaming, a bill that Christie signed. But Adelson is reported to have been told that a Christie veto on the bill would have been overridden. Christie would probably have a hard time explaining his signature on an iGaming bill in NJ before supporting RAWA, but it seems clear he would do what Adelson wants on the iGaming front.
- Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas): Cruz is not on the record on iGaming. But as a leading member of the Tea Party movement, which usually falls on the side of states’ rights, where he falls on the issue appears to be up in the air.
- Gov. Mike Pence (Indiana): Pence publicly supports Adelson’s desire for an online gambling ban.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (South Carolina): Graham sponsored RAWA in 2014, and will again in 2015, it appears. The only issue is his willingness to allow a carveout for online lotteries, which it doesn’t appear Adelson is a fan of.
According to Politico, Rubio is currently the front-runner to get Adelson’s backing. Ralston, however, reported that there is currently no leader in currying favor with Adelson:
By the way, if anyone thinks Sheldon Adelson has made a final decision in April 2015 who to load up on for president, you don't know SGA.
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) April 23, 2015