Florida lawmakers are following the classic playbook to build the case for more casinos in the Sunshine State.
First use taxpayers’ money to conduct a study about gambling. Make sure study touts benefits of gambling while playing down or ignoring the social and economic costs. Use that study to support votes to allow more casinos.
Call it the Casino Confirmation Bias. The Legislature recently agreed to spend nearly $400,000 to “comprehensively examine” gambling issues. The Legislature then hired Spectrum Gaming Group to conduct the study. Spectrum specializes in promoting gambling and casinos.
As Scott Maxwell writes in the Orlando Sentinel: “Gee, I wonder what it will find.”
Maxwell says that hiring Spectrum to study gambling is like “contracting Anheuser-Busch to do a study on whether drinking beer is OK.”
Of course, the casino lobbyists are the main drivers behind more gambling in Florida. Efforts to bring Las Vegas-style casinos to Florida failed last year but they remain undeterred.
As Maxwell writes: Before he was elected, Gov. Rick Scott “promised the Baptists that he would fight gambling. Yet right after he was elected, Scott jetted off to Vegas to meet with casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who wants to build casinos in Florida — and who later cut a $250,000 check to Scott’s campaign. And now, according to the Sunshine State News, Adelson’s lobbyists are telling legislators they should start giving casinos tax breaks and incentives.”
The casinos aren’t even legal and already the lobbyists are working on tax breaks. That should give some indication as to what Spectrum Gaming’s study will find.
Tags: casino, Florida, gambling, Scott Maxwell, Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson tried to buy the White House. So it is no surprise the casino mogul’s company has admitted that it likely violated a federal law against paying bribes to foreign officials.
With federal prosecutors investigating, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. notified the Securities and Exchange Commission that its audit committee and independent accountants determined “there were likely violations of the books and records and internal controls provisions” of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The mea culpa comes after Adelson poured tens of millions of dollars into Mitt Romney’s failed bid to unseat President Obama. With no friends in the White House, the Sands appears ready to fess up to some misdeeds, hopefully pay a fine and move on.
Hopefully, prosecutors will press for a full accounting of what occurred. Indeed, the dubious business dealings appear to be widespread and not some one off deal by a rogue employee. In fact, the efforts appear to extend to upper levels of the company.
Steven C. Jacobs, the former president of the Sands operations in Macau, alleged in a wrongful-termination lawsuit that he had been pressured to exercise improper leverage against government officials. He also accused the company of turning a blind eye toward Chinese organized crime figures operating in its casinos.
The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the New Yorker magazine, Frontline and others have detailed some of the Sands’ sleazy business dealings in China, including tens of millions of dollars in payments made through a Chinese intermediary, attempts to set up a trade center in Beijing and sponsor basketball team.
Adelson also reportedly intervened on behalf of the Chinese government to help stall a House resolution condemning the country’s bid for the 2008 Summer Olympics on the basis of its human rights record. Adelson recently sued a Journal reporter for libel in what appears to be an intimidation tactic aimed at quieting the bad press.
Of course, casinos and corruption go together like an ace of hearts and a jack of spades. As more states in the U.S. push to legalize casinos, lawmakers should keep in mind that these are the companies they are doing business with.
Tags: bribes, casino and corruption, federal prosecutors, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Las Vegas Sands Corp., Macau, SEC, Sheldon Adelson
Before the election, billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said he planned to spend $100 million to help defeat President Barack Obama.
Turns out, Adelson spent even more. According to a report, Adelson gave $150 million to various Republican candidates and Super PACs. Wonder if Adelson, 79, feels like one of the many elderly slots players at his casinos who get suckered into spending a few more dollars trying to win a jackpot only to go home broke?
Of course, Adelson, who is worth about $20 billion, is hardly broke – even after blowing tens of million of dollars on Mitt Romney’s failed candidacy. Adelson is a major backer of the hard line stance taken by Israel. But the report says Adelson’s political spending was motivated by the two federal investigations into his casino empire. “According to sources — and comments from Adelson himself — fears over investigations into his business affairs and worries that Obama would retaliate against people who opposed the president were both part of the catalyst for his giving,” the report said.
“During the election, Adelson told Politico that the Justice Department investigation, and the way he felt treated by prosecutors, was a primary motivation for his investment in Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates,” the report said.
Don’t look for Adelson to pack up and go away. He is reportedly meeting with Washington lawmakers this week. “Adelson plans to visit Washington, according to three separate GOP sources familiar with his travel schedule,” the report said. “While here, he’s arranged Hill meetings with at least one House GOP leader in which he is expected to discuss key issues, including possible changes to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the anti-bribery law that undergirds one federal probe into his casino network, according to a Republican attorney with knowledge of his plans.”
Looks like Adelson is doubling down.
Tags: Barack Obama, casino, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, GOP, Mitt Romney, Sheldon Adelson
When it comes to gambling, the two biggest losers on Election Day were casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Maryland residents.
Adelson spent tens of millions of dollars in an effort to defeat President Obama and other Democrats. But most of his political bets were a bust. Adelson will not have a direct line to the White House. But he may still hear from the feds, given that his casino company is under criminal investigation for violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act.
In Maryland, voters narrowly approved a measure that will allow full blown casinos across the state. A relentless advertising campaign by gambling companies underscored the stakes in the vote.
More than $90 million was spent, mostly by two companies, to influence the vote. Penn National Gaming Inc., which owns a casino in West Virginia near Maryland’s border, opposed the ballot question. Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International, which wants to build an $800 million casino and resort at National Harbor by the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, spent millions in support of the measure.
The loser in the end will be the Maryland residents who will see an increase in social and economic ills that come with casinos.
Tags: biggest loser, casino, Election Day, gambling, Maryland, Sheldon Adelson
Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson is likely keeping a close eye on the outcome of the presidential race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
But Adelson and other casino operators may be impacted more by the shift in power in China. The Communist Party there holds a once-a-decade congress starting Thursday that will result in a power shift in its leadership. Those new leaders may look to curb the explosive growth in casino gambling in Macau, where Adelson and other U.S. casino operators, like Steve Wynn, now make the bulk of their profits.
As BusinessWeek reports, there may be “concern about Chinese citizens spiriting wealth outside the mainland to Macau in violation of capital controls, as well as the huge profits being made there by U.S. casino companies.”
The new leaders in China could implement policies designed to curb the rampant corruption that is becoming a threat to the Communist Party’s power. No where is the corruption more prevalent than in Macau, a growing casino capital rife with mobs and prostitution. Adelson’s and Wynn’s respective casino companies are under U.S. investigation for violation of the Federal Corrupt Practices Act.
Any crackdown by the new Chinese leaders could stem the flow of money and tourists to Macau, which is an hour ferry ride from west of Hong Kong. About 28 million people, mostly from mainland China, have visited Macau in the 12 months ending in September. Macau’s casinos raked in $33.5 billion last year, more than five times the amount of Las Vegas.
Adelson donated tens of millions of dollars to help defeat Obama. But in the end, his casino empire may be more impacted by what happens in China than who ends up in the White House.
Tags: Barack Obama, casino, China, congress, Election Day, Hong Kong, Macau, Mitt Romney, Sheldon Adelson, White House
The Las Vegas Sands profits by stacking the odds against its casino customers. So it should come as no surprise that the casino also tried to play a version of three-card Monte in a Nevada courtroom.
The Sands, which is controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson was fined $25,000 for trying deceive the court in a wrongful termination case brought by a former executive of its Macau operations.
At issue are emails and other electronic data sought by Steve Jacobs, the former Sands executive fired in 2010. Sands officials told the court the data could not be removed from Macau due to a local data protection law. But the data had already been copied and removed from Macau in 2010 for review by Sands officials, District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled last week.
The Sands repeated inaccurate statements over several months, and intentionally tried to deceive the court in order to stall the discovery process, the judge wrote. Jacobs’ suit alleges Adelson directed him to investigate Chinese officials and gather information to use against them. Jacobs also alleges Adelson told him to hire a Macau government official, a potential violation of U.S. anti-bribery law and that Adelson approved a “prostitution strategy” to help boost business at the casino. The Sands and Adelson deny the allegations.
The case has caught the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice, Securities and Exchange Commission and Nevada casino regulators, which have all launched criminal investigations. Adelson, a leading donor to the Republican Party and Mitt Romney, has contributed tens of millions of dollars in an effort to defeat President Obama and influence policy in Israel.
Tags: Nevada court and misled, Sands, Sheldon Adelson, Steve Jacobs
Eight months ago, most people never heard of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul that controls the Las Vegas Sands empire. But many are now getting a fuller picture of how one of the GOP’s biggest donors mixes politics and profits to get what he wants both here and abroad. (Coincidentally, Paul Ryan, the GOP vice presidential pick, will be at a fundraiser today at the Sands’s Venetian casino in Las Vegas, where Adelson is expected to attend.)
A page-one story in The New York Times today details how Adelson used cash, connections and clout to expand his casino empire into China’s Macau region. The story details how Adelson turned to a mysterious businessman named Yang Saixin to help win friends and influence top officials in China. Those often-murky efforts included hiring the daughter of a leading international trade official; trying to buy a Chinese basketball team; and calling former U.S. Rep. Tom Delay regarding a resolution condemning China’s human rights record.
Along the way, Adelson’s company has spent millions of dollars to get better connected in China. Questions of where all the money has gone has led to lawsuits and a federal investigation of whether the Sands has violated bribery provisions in the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act. Adelson denies any wrongdoing.
In addition to the detailed account in The Times, other publications have weighed in with investigative pieces of Adelson’s casino company, including The Wall Street Journal and Pro Publica. (See here and here.) For a list of seven surprising facts about Adelson see here. Before throwing his support behind Mitt Romney, Adelson backed Newt Gingrich in a bid to “destroy Romney,” as The Atlantic detailed here. Connie Bruck’s profile of Adelson in The New Yorker in 2008 also provides excellent into how he operates.
Tags: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, fundraiser, Las Vegas, Macau, Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Sands, Sheldon Adelson, Yang Saixin
Distinguished reporter Thomas B. Edsall raises some good questions in The New York Times about the relationship Mitt Romney has with one of his biggest donors, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.
In particular, Edsall points out that Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion opposes gambling in any form, including government-sponsored lotteries. But as a candidate, Romney has no qualms about using millions of dollars in donations from Adelson to help defeat Barack Obama. At the very least, Romney should explain how he “reconciles the values he says he stands for with the basis on which Adelson’s casino fortune is built,” Edsall writes. (This blog has also raised those points in the past. See here and here.)
Edsall goes on to detail the various federal investigations swirling around Adelson’s casino empire, including probes into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering. Adelson denies any wrongdoing. But those investigations also raise troubling questions as to why Romney would allow Adelson to cozy up to him and what the Las Vegas casino magnate wants in return for his outsized donations.
Of course, like many of his other policy positions, Romney is all over the map when it comes to gambling. As governor of Massachusetts, Romney avoided gambling because of the social costs. But at Bain Capital, his firm invested in gambling companies, as this report in Mother Jones details.
Tags: campaign, casino, donor, investigation, Mitt Romney, Sands, Sheldon Adelson, Thomas Edsall
Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s casino company already faces a federal investigation for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Now, authorities are investigating whether the Las Vegas Sands Corp. violated money-laundering laws by allowing two high rollers to transfer millions of dollars to the casino, despite red flags, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The probe centers around the company’s handling of money from two gamblers with troubled pasts: a Mexican businessman later accused of drug trafficking and a former California executive subsequently convicted of taking illegal kickbacks. (And these are the casino’s good customers.)
The Sands said it acted properly and did not violate any laws. The probe will focus on whether Sands executives showed “willful blindness” or “flagrant organizational indifference” to where the money came from.
One of the gamblers was Zhenli Ye Gon, who was indicted in 2007 on charges of trafficking products used to make methamphetamine after Mexican authorities and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration raided his Mexico City home and found more than $205 million. Ye Gon told the Associated Press in 2007 that he bet $150,000 a hand at baccarat during his gambling sprees, and that the Sands-owned Venetian casino gave him a Rolls Royce. He lost more than $125 million at Vegas casinos, including the Venetian, according to a 2007 affidavit by a federal agent who reviewed casino records, although $40 million of that was lent to him by casinos and never paid back, according to The Journal.
The probe shines yet another black eye on the Sands and some of the murky high rollers that casinos do business with. It also raises longstanding questions about the use of casinos by drug dealers and others to launder money.
Tags: Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, money laundering, Sands, Sheldon Adelson, Venetian, Zhenli Ye Gon
Mitt Romney’s overseas trip with billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson in tow was a disaster politically. But Adelson still helped to raise a pile of money for Romney, who spent lots of time with fundraisers.
The trip was designed to make Romney look like a statesman. Instead, it was dominated by one gaffe after another. (See Jon Stewart’s funny but accurate analysis here.) Or as the headline on this Washington Post story says: “Romney trips ends with more baggage than planned.”
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said Romney should have just gone to Las Vegas, since the trip was really all about money. Maureen Dowd used a scene from The Soprano’s to show how the trip went. Romney blamed the press for highlighting the gaffes, while an aide to President Obama called the trip an “embarrassing disaster.”
Romney’s trip is news for this blog because of Adelson’s key role. Adelson is by far the largest donor to Romney’s campaign. The casino magnate helped raise money and introduce Romney to Jewish funders. Adelson tried to downplay his involvement saying he just traveled to Israel for a shwarma sandwich.
If Romney is elected president, Adelson’s influence on the White House could be substantial. His Sands casino company is under investigation for potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Tags: casino, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, gaffe, Israel, Jon Stewart, Maureen Dowd, Mitt Romney, Obama, overseas trip, Sands, Sheldon Adelson, Thomas Friedman, White House