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Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson hones in on Tampa, Florida

Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corp, has been the target of so many new headlines this year, virtually every American who can read knows his name. He’s the leading advocate of online gambling prohibition in the United States and is known for using his multi-billion bankroll to influence legislation on both state and federal levels. Just recently, he’s shifted his viewpoint to Florida, where he hopes to land a casino in Tampa as well as prevent state lawmakers from legalizing medical marijuana.

Adelson told reporters earlier this year that he intends to spend “whatever it takes” to get a blanket ban of online casino and poker games passed by the federal government. Apparently that’s just one of his primary goals of 2014. According to reports over the summer, Adelson was the dominant contributor to a coalition known as ‘Vote No on 2’, organized to oppose a constitutional amendment introduced to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. In June of this year, it was reported that the organization had raised a total of $2.7 million, a staggering $2.5 million of which came directly from the pocket of Mr. Adelson. And according to Forbes Top 400, the 81 year old casino mogul has plenty to work with, ranked 12th in the nation with an estimated worth of $32 billion.

This isn’t the first time – and surely won’t be the last – that the head of LVS has thrown money at political issues in the Sunshine State. A report issued by the Tampa Bay Host Committee in 2012 showed that Adelson contributed $5 million to support the Republican National Convention in the GOP.

At present, Florida legislators are debating the issue of casino expansion in South Florida and Tampa. Part of the discussion relates to destination casinos, which are Mr. Adelson’s forte, but an expansion of tribal casinos is considered more likely, upholding the state’s current position as a tribal-only Class II/III gambling state. But knowing Sheldon, if he can toss enough greenbacks in the right direction to get commercial casinos approved in Florida, his company will surely be the first in line to submit an application for a license to operate a ‘Sands’ branded casino in the state.

Adelson’s interest in South Florida and Tampa came to light at the Global Gaming Expo earlier this month. Held at his own Sands Expo and Convention Center, Sheldon delivered a keynote address in which the main topic was (what else?) his opposition of internet gambling in the US. He also brought up the topic of marijuana, associating its legalization with that of iGaming. “Just because it’s happening now,” Adelson said, “isn’t a justification” for legalizing online casinos, online poker rooms or marijuana.

In terms of casino expansion, the LVS chairman told Roger Gros, Editor of Global Gaming Business Magazine, that he has no interest in building a new casino in his home state of Massachusetts. Instead, he would like to focus on expanding his casino presence to South Florida, Tampa and Texas. He also showed an interest in developing a new casino in New Jersey’s Meadowlands, should the Garden State elect to increase its gambling jurisdictions beyond Atlantic City.

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