Casino magnate and Sands Bethlehem owner is trying to stop two things he doesn't like in PA

What Does Sheldon Adelson Hate More: Video Gaming Terminals Or Online Gambling In PA?

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Sheldon Adelson is trying to use his deep pockets to scuttle gaming measures he doesn’t like in Pennsylvania.

The PA House of Representatives passed a gaming package last week that includes two proposals vehemently opposed by Adelson, the chairman of Las Vegas Sands: online gambling and video gaming termimals.

Unfortunately for Adelson, the state is in dire need of revenue. The legislature seemingly needs to pass at least one of these proposals to help slow an ever-increasing budget deficit.

Based on new lobbying efforts, VGTs seem to be the more valuable target.

Adelson’s long-standing fight against online gambling

Ever since the issue first landed on his radar in 2013, Adelson has waged a veritable one-man war against online gambling. He isn’t its only opponent, but he’s by far the most vocal and influential.

Since telling Forbes he’d “spend whatever it takes” to stop online gambling, Adelson has:

  • Created an AstroTurf lobbying group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling;
  • Been the driving force behind legislation to prohibit online gambling at the federal level;
  • Lobbied to stop efforts to legalize online gambling at the state level;
  • Waged a public campaign to paint online gambling in a negative light.

But now, based on where his attention appears to be focused, the casino magnate has found something he dislikes even more than online gambling: VGTs.

With Pennsylvania’s legislature now considering the authorization of VGTs at qualified bars, restaurants, truck stops, and off-track betting parlors, Adelson is turning his attention and his money (reportedly $1 million) toward that issue.

Are VGTs easier to stop than online gambling?

Whereas the debate over online gambling legalization in Pennsylvania isn’t a matter of “if” but “how,” VGTs are a far more contentious issue.

The VGT package was hotly debated in the House before it passed by a vote of 102-89. It’s believed to have even less support in the Senate.

If Adelson is reading the writing on the wall, the smart play is to focus his time and resources on stopping what he can stop.

Little support for VGTs from the industry

The casino industry in Pennsylvania is almost unanimously opposed to VGTs.

The only casino on the record as being in favor of VGTs is Penn National, which not surprisingly owns a VGT distribution company that supplies some 1,500 machines to bars in Illinois. Rush Street Gaming also has a vested interest in VGTs but hasn’t publicly come out in favor of VGT authorization in Pennsylvania.

The other casinos in Pennsylvania are opposed to VGTs. In a joint letter submitted to the legislature in May, casinos voiced their opposition to VGTs, including:

  • Mohegan Sun
  • Harrah’s
  • Presque Isle
  • Meadows
  • Valley Forge
  • Parx
  • Sands
  • Mount Airy
  • Lady Luck

Adelson and Las Vegas Sands stand at the front of the opposition group.

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A new AstroTurf group emerges

Similar to his ties with the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, Adelson is believed to be behind the Pennsylvanians for Responsible Government, the group leading the fight against VGTs in the state.

Speaking to the the Allentown Morning Call, Michael Bailey, a spokesperson for the group, cited the following concerns:

“This proposal would destroy the brick-and-mortar casino industry and risk the nearly $1.4 billion in tax revenues that these establishments generate annually. Worse yet, because VGTs are designed to operate without employees, the 18,000 people casinos collectively employ in Pennsylvania will be put in serious jeopardy.”

Even before VGTs were included in the House’s gaming proposal, the group began running ads against them.

Will any of Adelson’s efforts bear fruit, and can he stop gaming expansion on two fronts? It seems like a tall order, but not impossible.

Image credit: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP/Getty Images

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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