SHELDON ADELSON, THE billionaire Republican casino mogul, is associated with a singular political project: his long-running mission to uproot the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and plant it in Jerusalem instead.
But there’s a second project — lower profile, but no less of a passionate priority — that Adelson has long been gunning for, and that’s his war against online gambling. Adelson’s casino empire is comprised of brick-and-mortar establishments, to which online gambling is a major threat, but Adelson says he is at war with online gambling for the good of society: Gambling in casinos is one thing, but gambling online is a public health nightmare.
Adelson’s crusade against online gambling led to an attorney general recusal, tense debates within the Justice Department, and a standoff with the White House that culminated with an extraordinary reversal of policy in the middle of the government shutdown, when the Trump administration issued the legal opinion against online gambling that Adelson had long sought.
His mission dates back to 2011, when the Justice Department issued an opinion clarifying that the Wire Act, a 1961 federal statute designed to stop interstate betting, only applies to sports betting and no other forms of gambling. The opinion paved the way for states to begin establishing legalized online gambling, so long as they did not create interstate sports betting arrangements. Today, Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have all legalized online gambling, and 22 states have pending gambling legislation for a mix of casino, poker, and sports.
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