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Sheldon Adelson, the man behind the iconic Las Vegas Venetian and Palazzo hotels, is the eighth richest man in America–worth $25 billion–and has no doubt profited handsomely from the gaming industry.


He’s also one of the country’s most outspoken opponents of online gambling.

Adelson has backed an anti-online gaming bill entitled the Restore America’s Wire Act. As the Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie reported:

“RAWA, would impose a federal ban on all Internet gambling, including online state lotteries and poker. Since it was introduced last year, RAWA has been championed almost singlehandedly outside Congress by casino magnate and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, whose army of lobbyists have made clear that the bill is a top priority. Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., spent about $150 million in 2012 to fund Republican candidates and conservative groups.”

On the surface, Adelson’s support of RAWA looks suspiciously like a business decision driven by cronyism. Adelson however, explains his position in the context of a protective measure to Bloomberg:

“I want to make money from those who can afford it. I can’t tell from the Internet who is underage. I can’t tell who has financial difficulties. I can’t tell who is not gaming responsibly. I can’t tell if money is being laundered. I can in the casino.”

This explanation caught the eye of Vegas-based online gambling advocate Tim James, who decided to investigate whether protecting underage and vulnerable people was truly at the root of Adelson’s anti-online gambling crusade.

In an undercover investigation for the online “Tim James Show,” host Tim James sent two underage individuals into The Venetian and The Palazzo to test whether they were truly free from the scourges Adelson claims he protects his customers from.

In this video, a nineteen-year-old woman with a fake ID is shown being able to both gamble and order drinks. A 19-year-old man is shown being able to gamble and is served alcoholic beverages, without anyone asking him for identification at all. In the same investigation, James also finds that prostitution, which Adelson has spoken out against, appears to be common within his casinos.

James interviews an alleged sex worker he brought back to a hotel room at The Venetian who tells him she’s worked there, “ungodly amounts.” James asks her if casino staff look the other way while she’s doing her job and she says “the bartenders do, security does, the dealers do.” She also notes that she believes staff at The Venetian actively want her there seeing as it’s a place where many wealthy men come to gamble.

This video also shows that online gambling (which is legal in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey) appears to be more regulated than Adelson claims. Using the same fake ID that allowed a nineteen-year-old woman to gamble in Adelson’s casino, James tries to register on online poker website WSOP.com. He appears to be denied several times, both with the fake and a real underage ID.

Adleson spoke of “sin activity” to Bloomberg, yet is the owner of casinos where it appears underage individuals are drinking and gambling, and prostitution is occurring with the knowledge of staff.

Adleson’s critics say his online gambling ban push is a corporatist ploy to use the government to keep competition from encroaching on his business. Interestingly, two Republican presidential candidates have been sponsors of RAWA: Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham.

They are also Republicans Adelson has donated considerably to.

When Adelson was asked how much he’d spend to keep people from gambling online, he told Bloomberg, “whatever it takes.”

Corie  Whalen About the author:
Corie Whalen is a political consultant and writer based in Houston, Texas. Follow her on Twitter @CorieWhalen
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