Sheldon Adelson is no longer sitting idle on the political sidelines. The Las Vegas Sands founder worth around $30 billion is finally ready to make his move, and of little surprise to most, the GOP mega-donor is opening his personal treasury only for the presumptive Republican Party candidate Donald Trump.
Billionaire to billionaire, Donald Trump has landed the deep pockets of Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas Sands owner who’s reportedly pledged $100 million to the Republican nominee’s campaign.
In an op-ed published in The Washington Post on May 13, Adelson explained that his delay in backing a candidate was due to the overwhelming size of the field in which the primary began.
‘Ultimately, each candidate had to convince the party’s primary voters across the country,’ Adelson wrote. ‘I am endorsing Trump’s bid for president and strongly encourage my fellow Republicans, especially our Republican elected officials, party loyalists and operatives, and those who provide important financial backing, to do the same.’
Though the field began with 17 contenders, many believed Adelson still couldn’t find a candidate to get excited about.
In 2012, Adelson and wife Miriam donated $93 million through political action committees. The couple has been expected to do the same in 2016, but have remained distant from the presidential primary, at least when it comes to opening their vault.
A cornerstone of Trump’s primary campaign has been reaffirming voters that he doesn’t need to appease any self-interest groups as he’s been self-funding his operations.
That will soon change.
According to The New York Times’ Jonathan Martin, Adelson has informed confidants that $100 million has been budgeted to fund Trump’s bid against the presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. But unlike in 2012, the major chunk will go to Trump and Trump alone, as Adelson is focusing on the presidency over congressional races.
‘If Republicans do not come together in support of Trump, Obama will essentially be granted something the Constitution does not allow, a third term in the name of Hillary Clinton.’
Before Trump can begin focusing on trying to sway Democrats, minorities, and women to his side, he must first unite the GOP. Rumblings persist among conservatives, and a potential third-party candidate is still not out of the question, a strategy Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called a ‘suicide mission’ on Fox News Sunday.
Adelson has been pushing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in Congress since 2014, albeit unsuccessfully. Though the anti-online gambling measure has seemingly been shelved, RAWA-like language managed to slip into a recent Senate Appropriations Committee spending bill.
Perhaps a bit ironic to some is the fact that Adelson’s column appeared in The Washington Post, a daily that was acquired by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos in 2013 for $250 million.
The Post has come under scrutiny as of late for assigning roughly 20 staffers to Trump’s detail for the newspaper. Associate Editor Bob Woodward said the nearly two dozen employees are investigating facets of Trump’s life to document ‘every phase of his life.’
Though The Post has more than double the circulation than the Las Vegas Review-Journal, it’s a bit perplexing that Adelson wouldn’t write his opinion piece in the paper he owns. In December, Adelson paid $140 million through a subsidiary company to acquire the Review-Journal.
Nevada’s largest media outlet saw a changing of the guard once Adelson was revealed to be its new owner. Keith Moyer replaced Michael Hengel as the paper’s editor and reportedly imposed a gag order on writing about Adelson.
Michigan iPoker has been on track to become a reality ever since State Senator Mike Kowall (R-15th) presented SB 889 to the state’s senate two months ago. But now, a new wrinkle has turned up that could cast a cloud on that potential passage.
Michigan iPoker in jeopardy? Eileen and Mike Kowall served together as elected lawmakers on the Michigan legislature, but is Mrs. Kowell’s current lobbying career too close to her husband’s online gambling ambitions? (Image: dbusiness.com)
That’s because Kowell’s wife Eileen works for the lobbying firm that represents online gaming giant Amaya in the state, causing a potential for a conflict of interest. But the senator has denied that his wife’s employment at MGS Consultants poses any issues at all.
Eileen Kowall, a former state representative who left the House in 2014 due to term limits, was hired as one of five MGS lobbyists in 2015. The firm has looked after Amaya’s interests in Michigan since 2007, and its lobbyists, including Eileen Kowall, were present at the bill’s recent legislative hearing, where three Amaya representatives testified.
This is a particularly sore point in Michigan, because the state recently came in last in a national study that ranked states on ethics and transparency in politics.
‘It seems like a pretty troubling set of circumstances,’ Melanie McElroy, executive director of Common Cause Michigan, a non-partisan advocacy group that campaigns for honest, accountable government, told the Detroit Free Press.
‘It’s troubling Senator Kowall would sponsor legislation that would enrich MGS, a consulting firm that employs his wife,’ she said. ‘[It] reinforces in the public’s mind the idea that lawmakers aren’t there to represent the people, but they’re doing the bidding of special interests.’
While Senator Kowall acknowledged that MGS would benefit financially should his bill pass, he emphasized that his wife would not, and denied any conflict of interest because, he said, he had been working on the legislation long before she joined MGS.
‘She’s got nothing to do with it, it’s not one of her clients,’ Kowall said.
But Jeremiah Mankopf, managing partner of MGS, refused to tell the Free Press whether Eileen Kowall had worked on the Amaya campaign or not, stating that he didn’t understand the question.
Mankopf added that Eileen Kowall had attended the bill’s hearing at the Michigan Senate Regulatory Reform Committee early this month because ‘our entire office did,’ and said that her husband’s impending online gambling legislation was not a factor in her hiring. Her main remit is education issues, he said.
Kowall’s SB889 was introduced to the Michigan Senate in mid-March. If passed, it would authorize and regulate online poker and casino gaming in the state. It includes provisions that would allow scope for international liquidity sharing as well.
The bill is due to undergo a few minor technical amendments before it receives another hearing in the next few weeks.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval joined a meeting of the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee on Friday as a group of largely middle-aged men in suits were invited to wrap their silvery heads around the ultimate ‘millennial’ pastime, eSports.
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, not a habitual video-gamer, wants to get down with eSports, or at least the revenue the games bring in. (Image: Isaac Brekken/MCTvia Getty)
eSports, or professional competitive video gaming, is set to become a $1.9 billion industry by 2018, according to predictions by analysts SuperData, and Las Vegas wants a piece of that pie.
It has not escaped the attention of the city’s captains of industry that the millennial generation, reared on Counter-Strike and Grand Theft Auto, lack the appetite for the slot machines and craps tables that were so enthusiastically devoured by their Great-Aunt Muriels and Uncle Hanks.
The fact that more people are coming to Vegas than ever before these days, and yet fewer, proportionately, are hitting the gaming tables is beginning to trouble the powers that be.
The casino floor is ripe for innovation, it seems. Because, truth be told, some of these casino games are descendants of ones that were created hundreds of years ago, and times have changed a bit since the upper classes sat down to whist while the servants passed around the sherry.
‘There’s a lot for me to learn,’ declared Sandoval at the meeting, who confessed, to no one’s particular surprise, that he was not a habitual player of video games. ‘And I want to be receptive to a new generation of gamers.’
Nevada has already changed its gaming laws to allow for the introduction of variable payouts in its casinos. This will pave the way for the advent of slot-video-skill-gaming hybrids, where habitual, practiced gamers will be able to develop an edge over the average customer and therefore yield a higher payout.
But the real issue up for debate on Friday was whether competitive video gamers can be considered to be ‘athletes,’ and thus whether the wagering on the outcome of competitive video-game match-ups should be allowed in the sports books of Las Vegas.
Numerous regulated and unregulated eSports wagering sites have sprung up on the Internet over the last few years, and casino operators are beginning to wonder whether this might be the future of betting.
‘It capitalizes on the fact that we are the global center for gaming and hospitality,’ said Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. ‘We are the place that everyone looks to when it comes to regulation and making sure that these types of games can happen … in a way that people can trust.’
And some casinos are already getting in on the act. The Downtown Grand recently installed a video game lounge that spreads eSports tournaments every weekend, and Mandalay Bay hosted a League of Legends tournament featuring some of the world’s top ‘cyber-athletes’ last month.
Gaming Control Board chairman A.G. Burnett told the committee that there is nothing in Nevada’s list of prohibited wagers that would appear to preclude esports.
Which means that Vegas sports book could soon be filled with people speculating on the form of the world’s top Hearthstone players, provided that those of us over 30 can get used to uttering he word ‘cyber-athlete’ without smirking.
David Baazov will not be seeking reelection to the Amaya board, a sign that he’s still serious about taking the company private. (Image: cbc.ca)
Amaya’s Q1 conference call revealed a company in robust health, despite the recent troubles of its Chairman and CEO, David Baazov.
Interim CEO, Rafi Ashkenazi, who is holding the fort while Baazov takes temporary absence to consider insider trading charges against him, said that profit more than doubled in the first quarter of the year over the previous quarter. Revenue, meanwhile, was up six percent to $288.7 million.
Despite all the distractions, ‘Amaya remains focused,’ said Ashkenazi.
‘During the first quarter, we continued to execute on our growth plans despite unexpected challenges, including management changes and the ongoing strategic alternatives process,’ he continued.
‘We attracted new customers to PokerStars, continued to introduce changes to improve the overall poker experience, expanded our online casino offering and continued to invest in our emerging online sportsbook.’
It seems that Baazov is confident that the allegations against him will not stick. Amaya confirmed that he would not be seeking reelection to the board, a surefire sign that he is plowing ahead with his offer to take the company private.
Daniel Sebag, Amaya CFO, also confirmed that he would not be seeking reelection, which suggests he may be one of several unnamed Amaya execs on board with Baazov.
‘To date, several parties, including David Baazov, who is on a leave of absence as chairman and chief executive officer of Amaya, have entered into confidentiality agreements with Amaya,’ announced the company in a separate new release Monday. ‘A number of these parties have received management presentations and are conducting due diligence.
‘While there can be no assurance that this process will result in a transaction of any kind, the Special Committee is focused on completing its review of strategic alternatives in a timely manner.’
Amaya declined to offer financial projections during the earnings call due to the uncertainty created by Baazov’s bid. Several parties, including Baazov, have entered into confidentiality agreements with regard to ‘a transaction involving the company,’ Amaya said.
The Special committee, which is overseeing the bid on behalf of Amaya, said it believes the interests of Amaya and its shareholders are best served by maintaining confidentiality around the details of this process. It will, however, provide further updates to shareholders ‘as circumstances warrant.’
The committee is also examining the five charges that have been levelled against Baazov by the Quebec financial regulator, ACF. The regulator has revealed that the charges relate to not only the suspicious trading patterns in the lead up to Amaya’s acquisition of PokerStars but they also encompass suspicious incidents dating back to 2011.