East Coast Gaming Congress online gambling growth Sheldon Adelson

New Jersey State Sen. Ray Lesniak said at the East Coast Gaming Congress this week that online gambling’s toughest hurdle is that of Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. (Image: Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger)

The East Coast Gaming Congress’ 19th annual convention began with a one-day packed schedule discussing the challenges and opportunities regarding online gambling and setting out a roadmap for the future.

Held at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, speakers and panelists included a wide array of individuals involved in the industry, from politicians and lawyers to casinos and Internet operators.

And if anything was learned from the four sessions, it’s that the overall health of iGaming is improving, and its potential upswing has no limits.

“We likened the rollout of New Jersey to the process of birthing a baby,” Eugene Johnson, senior vice president of Spectrum Gaming Group said as he moderated the discussion iGaming at 1.5: Baby Steps. “Now that baby is starting to toddle.”

Slowly but Surely

By all accords, online gaming in the three states with legalized Internet poker or casino gameplay has struggled, with Morgan Stanley recently slashing its valuation on the potential market from its initial estimate of $5 billion to nearly half at just $2.7 billion. “We continue to believe that there is a material runway for growth, but results have been disappointing,” Morgan Stanley’s report said.

But that “material runway for growth” has already been laid down, and the expansion is imminent, at least according to those in attendance at the East Coast Gaming Congress.

“The biggest challenge of Internet gambling in the US is that this is an industry still looked at as having been born out of sin,” Gil White, outside counsel to 888 Holdings said during the Roadmap for the Future discussion. “The new world of Internet gambling is clearly regulated and regulatable.”

Panelists identified culprits for the slow rollout, including technical glitches stemming from geolocation technology, and the resistance of financial transactions being approved by Visa due to liability concerns.

With a new online gambling merchant code in place, successful Visa transaction rates are now around 50 percent, more than double since its infancy.

With hiccups being addressed and resolved, and several key states considering legislation, including both California and Pennsylvania, many insiders feel online gambling is ripe for growth.

The $30 Billion-Dollar Question

While those in Atlantic City are bolstering the industry in which many of them serve, a dark cloud looms over the Borgata in the way of Sheldon Adelson, online gaming’s most financially strong and active foe.

The man worth a give or take $30 billion is using his political clout to push the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, a bill that would create iGaming prohibition.

“The biggest problem is Sheldon Adelson,” New Jersey State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-Union) said Wednesday. “When a billionaire says he’ll spend whatever it costs to stop Internet gambling, that scares the bejesus out of legislators.”

However, Adelson might soon have more pressing issues after the former CEO of his Sands Macao resort brought a lawsuit accusing the Vegas tycoon of having ties to organized crime.

A judge ruled earlier this week that the case will be tried in a Nevada courtroom, a notion Adelson calls “delusional and fabricated.”

bwin.party revenue drop Amaya 888 acquisition

Disappointing revenue numbers released by bwin.party are unlikely to send potential acquirers running, despite the company having earned six percent less than it did in the first quarter of 2014. (Image: californiagambler.com)

Bwin.party has been hogging the headlines this week, as it was confirmed Amaya and GVC together submitted a deal to buy the company, with 888 Holdings following suit with a bid of its own.

But could those proposals be jeopardized after bwin released its financial numbers for the first quarter of 2015 that show the company is headed in the wrong direction?

Probably not, according to experts.

Compared to 2014, total Q1 revenues are down six percent from $184 million to $172 million, a decline credited to lower sports betting margins and the continued regression of online poker.

But like any good politician, the company’s leadership is spinning the news into one of positivity.

“Given our expanding mobile footprint, increased focus on the core business and the associated program of operational efficiencies, we remain on-track for the full year,” Norbert Teufelberger, CEO of bwin.party said.

Folding on Poker?

Perhaps most striking in the earnings report is the dismal performance of poker. The game fell 31 percent compared to last year’s first quarter, with revenues totaling just $18.7 million, less than 11 percent of bwin’s gross income.

“Our year-on-year performance for the first quarter confirms the challenging environment in European poker,” Teufelberger explained.

The company’s chief executive blames the implementation of the Value-Added Tax (VAT) in certain EU markets as one reason for the reduction of revenue. But that isn’t stopping the company from remaining optimistic in regards to the American market.

“In the United States, draft legislation is being considered in both California and Pennsylvania. On the back of the strength of our US platform and existing partnerships (that now includes a market access partner in Pennsylvania), we believe that we are well-placed to secure a leading position in each of these markets should a suitable regulatory and fiscal framework be introduced.”

Bid Adieu to Bids?

Bwin.party says it will now focus its attention on reviewing the bids from 888 and Amaya/GVC, assessing which offer makes the most sense for its investors and employees.

Though bwin isn’t commenting on the specifics of the offers, they likely involve a combination of cash and share considerations accumulating somewhere north of $1 billion. Both 888 and GVC are publicly traded companies on the London Stock Exchange, while Amaya trades on the Toronto market.

“While there can be no guarantee that these discussions will result in any transaction being completed, the Board expects to reach a conclusion over the coming weeks when a further announcement will be made,” bwin.party said in the financial report.

Will the earnings shortfall scare off either bidder?

“There is nothing in these results that I think would frighten off any potential suitors,” Nick Batram, a market analyst told Reuters.

In fact, Batram believes it might have just the opposite effect.

“Perhaps, on the contrary, they might want to get their business done sooner rather than later, just in case this is the beginning of a recovery,” he explains.

And that’s apparently what investors believe as well, as despite a six percent revenue drop shares of bwin.party (LON:BPTY) were up three percent during early trading on Thursday.

Amaya Neymar PokerStars

Signing sports great Neymar Jr. this year was part of a global expansion vision: Amaya CEO David Baazov says PokerStars now represents two-thirds of the total online poker industry. (Image: Creative Commons via Flikr)

Amaya Inc. has released its quarterly numbers for January 1st through to the end of March, and due to its acquisition of Rational Group’s PokerStars and Full Tilt online gaming portals last June, the Montreal-based company posted a 2,549 percent revenue increase from a year ago.

Yes, you read that number right.

Revenues for the three-month period totaled $283.6 million, a far cry from the $10.7 million Amaya grossed before it purchased the word’s leading Internet poker and gaming platforms.

“We saw continued strength in our core consumer online gaming business,” David Baazov, the company’s chief executive, said.

Safety in Numbers

Earlier this month, Amaya told investors that its earnings might be a little lower than the company previously forecasted, citing the selling of its business-to-business (B2B) assets as the main reason for the shortfall.

The decision to unload Diamond Game, Cadillac Jack, Chartwell, and Cryptologic from its portfolio led to reduced earnings, as Amaya classified those sales as “discontinued operations.”

At the time, Baazov said to expect the first three-month revenue figure to be in the range of $278 to $283 million, which it ended up eclipsing by $600,000. That’s certainly reason for optimism among investors, as the stock (TSX:AYA) was sent soaring on Thursday, up nearly seven percent.

Any sector of the stock market has its times of instability, but the gaming industry is often an area more traditional investors tend to avoid. With Amaya coming in on the high end of its expectations set earlier this month, the news should help allay the fears of weary shareholders.

Pushing Poker

After buying Rational and its poker network subsidiaries for $4.9 billion last year, Amaya realized it needed to diversify and release some of its assets in order to reduce debt. And now, it’s rather apparent that the company is focusing on its two poker and online casino properties, and so far, it appears to be paying off.

On a global scale Amaya says that “PokerStars estimates it increased its share of the online poker market, based on cash game and tournament players, to approximately 66 percent… ”

According to the financial data, 94 percent of the company’s $280 million business-to-consumer (B2C) revenue was generated from online poker, with just six percent coming from its newer casino offerings. That could change for the second and third quarters, however, as the company continues to roll out other table games across additional platforms.

Sports betting will also make its debut in the following months, with customers in legalized jurisdictions soon able to access their poker and sportsbook account directly from the website, downloadable client, and even mobile app.

Self High-Five

No one is more impressed with Amaya’s report than Amaya, as the company claims it’s not just growing the game for selfish reasons, but for everyone involved.

“PokerStars recently made multiple strategic marketing investments to help grow the global poker sector, including the sponsorship of new poker pros, celebrities and athletes,” Baazov affirmed.

While it might be safe to assume PokerStars is first and foremost looking out for its own interests, it’s hard to argue that its recent signing of soccer superstar Neymar Jr. will do anything but increase online gaming’s visibility.

Sheldon Adelson Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, an organization with Sheldon Adelson’s support, says its recent polling proves residents in Pennsylvania don’t want to legalize online gambling. (Image: stopinternetgambling.com)

Sheldon Adelson is a master of persuasion, because when you’re worth more than $30 billion, money truly does talk.

He’s convinced members of Congress to take up the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a bill that seeks to bring Internet gaming prohibition to the United States, and while the new Attorney General Loretta Lynch says a reversal is unlikely, that isn’t stopping Adelson’s campaign.

Now he’s turning his attention to key battleground states considering legalizing online gambling, and no state seems closer than Pennsylvania, which is why Sheldon’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling conducted a survey in the Keystone State to see where the people stand.

Conducted by GOP surveying company Harper Polling, 513 registered voters were asked a series of questions on their views of iGaming, and the results were overwhelmingly against the expansion of the industry to the tune of 73 percent.

“Throughout the survey, there is clear evidence that while Pennsylvanians approve of other types of gambling, they have a sharply negative view of online gambling,” Brock McCleary, president of Harper said.

Evidence Questioned

While the Coalition and Adelson are promoting the results through various media outlets, proponents of Internet gambling have come to its defense, pointing out that the poll was extraordinarily flawed.

State Rep. John Payne (R-106th District), the author of House Bill 649, a proposition that would legalize online gaming, says of the poll, “I don’t hold much credibility to the survey because of the way it was done. The entire poll is designed and orchestrated to give the answers they want.”

According to Harper’s own press release, the polling company asked respondents a series of statements to see if the claim made them more or less likely to support legalized iGaming. But the statements were forcefully in favor of banning the industry.

The Coalition proudly reports that an astonishing 80 percent of interviewees said they were less likely to support online gambling after hearing the statements. The only problem is that the statements were highly questionable in factuality.

Amongst the declarations read included claims “online gambling in Pennsylvania will make it easy for children to be exposed to and participate in gambling,” and that the current proposed legislation won’t prevent “people or businesses with a history of illegal activity” from participating.

Other statements asserted that online gambling is a job killer, vulnerable to criminal schemes, and does not include any community involvement.

Bunch of Malarkey

Pennsylvania is seriously considering legalizing online gambling, and it’s important to gauge where the citizens of the Keystone State stand, but the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling probably isn’t the right organization to lead the research.

With more than 12.7 million residents, the sixth largest in the US, a biased poll consisting of 513 voters shouldn’t be reason for lawmakers in support of iGaming to change course.

McCleary basically revealed the survey’s goal in his closing remarks. “All of the arguments in opposition to online gambling proved highly effective and can help further solidify public opinion against online gambling,” McCleary concluded.

Jim Murren MGM Resorts Las Vegas online gambling

MGM Chairman Jim Murren isn’t necessarily concerned with which direction online gambling goes, saying Las Vegas isn’t in the convenience business but the resort-based industry. (Image: legalsportsreport.com)

Jim Murren isn’t losing any sleep over online gambling legislation as the MGM Resorts International CEO and chairman feels that regardless of whether states pass or ban iGaming laws, Las Vegas will continue to attract millions of tourists and remain profitable.

During the American Gaming Association’s (AGA) hour-long meeting with reporters this week in Washington, DC, Murren, who is also the chair of the organization, expressed his opinion that Internet betting isn’t a make or break resolution to both his company and Vegas as a whole.

“People will go to our resorts because we provide a form of hospitality and entertainment they cannot get at home and they certainly can’t get on the Internet,” Murren said. “Our business model is not based on the Internet driving business to us. So getting the growth of Internet gaming in and of itself is not required for us to meet our growth projections.”

Tell That to Sheldon

Of course, Murren’s way of thinking vastly differs from that of Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire owner of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. who is pushing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in Congress.

Though Adelson points to moral issues as motivation for his desire to ban all forms of Internet wagering, some pundits believe pro-RAWA advocates are also worried about losing their quasi-monopoly on the industry, primarily that of sports wagering.

“I think people are going to go to Las Vegas for March Madness, they are going to go to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl,” Murren stated. “They are going to go, even if there is sports betting in New Jersey and other states.”

“That is the Las Vegas experience that we create. Maybe I’m sounding overconfident, but when you invest the billions of dollars that we invest to create these experiences that we create, I’m all for consumer choice.”

AGA 2016 PAC

The AGA, a trade group representing the biggest casinos and lotteries in the country, also confirmed this week it will invest heavily in the 2016 election through its own political action committee (PAC). “We’re going to be more active in political discussion,” Murren said at the AGA’s new headquarters in DC.

“Because, as it turns out, you look at any battleground state in the United States, it’s more than likely that they have gaming there, with thousands and thousands of employees.”

The PAC spent just $152,250 during the 2012 presidential election, a rather low amount considering the industry it represents is worth $240 billion and supports 1.7 million jobs.

“Every industry has a PAC, every industry has dollars,” Geoff Freeman, AGA president and CEO said. “Is ours big enough? No. But we’re going to really focus on the assets that make our industry unique, if that’s what can separate us.”

While Murren told reporters he is a Republican, the PAC won’t necessarily support only GOP candidates. The group plans to meet with potential presidential contenders in the coming months to see where each stands, and inform them on the misconceptions about the casino industry.

“Certainly, what we can count on is members from Nevada are strong champions of gaming, Democrats and Republicans alike,” Freeman concluded.

bwin.party New Jersey license

Bwin.party CEO Norbert Teufelberger believes his company’s licensing in New Jersey is a reflection of its online software gaming products, and he remains optimistic about the future of iGaming in the US. (Image: pokeroff.ru)

Since 2013, bwin.party has been partnered with the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in order to legally offer online gambling to residents in New Jersey, but now the digital entertainment company can go out on its own after receiving two Casino Service Enterprise Licenses from the state’s Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE).

In a press release, CEO Norbert Teufelberger said, “Receipt of our full license in New Jersey marks an important milestone for our US business.”

Primarily known for its poker room PartyPoker, one of the largest in the world, bwin.party also offers online sports betting, bingo, and an abundance of casino games.

“We have a demanding delivery pipeline which will provide customers with further exciting content throughout 2015,” Teufelberger commented.

Bwin In, PokerStars Out

In addition to granting bwin.party (NJ) and bwin.party (USA) with full licenses, the DGE also granted Sportech with the right to offer its residents online gaming products.

The company that was once again passed over is of course PokerStars, the planet’s largest poker room that has been desperately seeking entry into the US.

That’s not to say that the DGE won’t approve PokerStars, in fact many believe it will happen sooner rather than later. Last month, Amaya boss David Baazov told investors regarding PokerStars, “As it relates to New Jersey, I would say that we feel that this is coming. We do expect to receive and launch in the next quarter.”

The long delay in approving PokerStars has created much speculation, primarily from NJ State Senator Ray Lesniak (D-20th District) who has gone so far as to point at Governor Chris Christie for causing the holdup.

Though there is no hard evidence of Christie blocking PokerStars, the notion of the governor trying to please anti-iPoker advocate and GOP donor Sheldon Adelson isn’t too far of a stretch.

Bwin-ing!

The animosity towards PokerStars is understandable considering the poker network’s actions pre-Black Friday in 2011 in which it provided services to US residents unlawfully. Bwin.party, however, claims it’s in the state’s good graces simply due to its superior suite of online gambling products.

“Recognized as being the best poker software supplier and for providing the operating platform behind the best mobile gaming product (poker and casino) as well as the operator of the year in New Jersey, together with our partners, we are focused on delivering a safe and secure real money gaming experience for adults wishing to play games using mobile, touch and desktop channels,” Teufelberger said.

Though Party Borgata was once the leading Internet poker room in NJ, the network has since been dethroned by the pool sharing of WSOP NJ and 888 NJ. Should PokerStars enter the fray, bwin.party’s poker product will be scrambling for players.

“We believe that the path to regulation across the United States is inevitable and expect that other states will soon follow,” Teufelberger opined. Should the bwin.party boss be correct, the legalization of additional states will only strengthen the overall iGambling market across the country.

California online poker informational hearings

The California legislature could hold informational hearings on Internet poker later this month. (Image: CAIB.net)

California online poker talks continue to trudge forward, but at least they are moving a bit, which is a marked and noticeable improvement over previous years.

It now appears that even the legislature might be willing to talk more about the issue in 2015, raising the prospect that this could be the first year in which hopes of passing an online poker bill in the state might be somewhat realistic.

According to a report by Dave Palermo of Online Poker Report, the California Senate and Assembly Government Organization committees are in talks to hold joint informational hearings on Internet poker, and those hearings could take place as soon as later this month.

Those hearings would be designed to take place before a May 1 deadline for “non-urgency” legislation, a category that would certainly include Internet poker bills.

While there are no guarantees that the hearing would take place by that point, or that this would even allow an online poker bill to be discussed before then, it would at least give those interested in online poker some hope in the state this year and beyond.

Hearings Would Help New Members Learn About Internet Poker

“Nothing has been finalized or approved, but the chairs of each committee are considering holding a couple of joint informational hearings on the issue so all the new members of each committee have a better understanding of the complexities of Internet gambling,” said Senate Government Organization Committee Director Art Terzakis.

That quote would suggest that these hearings may be just as much about giving legislators a grounding for future efforts as they are about getting something done in the current session.

That would make sense, as there still appears to be a few significant hurdles that would need to be overcome before online poker in California could become a reality.

Steady Progress On Issue This Year Has Improved Hopes for Online Poker

Certainly, there has been progress so far in 2015. There has been talk of more movement from some tribes about allowing PokerStars to enter the market, especially after a meeting at the National Indian Gaming Association convention in San Diego earlier this month.

In that meeting, The Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians and other members of their coalition proposed softening bad actor clauses as part of a broad tribal alliance with PokerStars to push past opposition from California’s powerful horse racing industry.

That industry could still be a sticking point, however. Some tribes would rather work with the race tracks rather than fight against them, while others want to shut them out of online poker entirely.

Since an Internet poker bill would require a two-thirds majority in the legislature in order to pass, it is possible that the horse racing industry could muster enough opposition to scuttle a bill if they aren’t happy with it.

Right now, there are four online poker bills sitting in the California legislature. Two of them are functionally identical “shell” bills, introduced by Senator Isadore Hall (D-South Bay) and Assemblymember Adam Gray (D-Merced County), who chair their respective Government Organization committees.

These two bills only have basic outlines for online poker, and do not address many of the controversial issues that currently divide stakeholders in the state.

In addition, there are also two other bills that could be considered: one from Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) that only allows tribal groups and card rooms to operate online poker sites, and one from Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer (D-South Los Angeles) that would also allow tracks to obtain Internet poker licenses.

Pennsylvania three online gambling bills

Watch closely to see which of three online gambling bills will pass muster in the Pennsylvania House. (Image: goodtricks.net)

Pennsylvania has three online gambling bills on the table, but followers will have to pay close attention to pick the winner in this fast-moving game of “whose bill is going to pass the House?”

Only a year ago, Internet gambling in Pennsylvania may have seemed like a pipe dream, but today, it is looking like a possibility that is being taken seriously by many in the state.

As lawmakers find ways to increase revenues without raising taxes, expanded gambling is one of the most likely options, and the Internet may be the best untapped market left for the state.

And now there are three separate bills currently in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, giving lawmakers plenty of options when it comes to deciding what online gambling could potentially look like in their state.

The latest bill to be tabled in the legislature is one brought forward by Representative Tina Davis (D-Bucks County) that would allow for casino games and poker to be offered over the Internet.

In her proposal, only land-based casinos operating in Pennsylvania would be eligible for online gambling licenses, and there would be a $5 million fee in order to get started. After that, the casinos could renew their licenses for three-year terms at an additional cost of $500,000.

High Tax Rate, In-Person Registration Could Hinder Davis Bill

The Davis proposal does have a couple of features that make it unique, though they may also make it unpopular in some circles. First, there’s the tax rate: at 28 percent on daily gross gaming revenues, it’s twice as high as the tax rate in the similar bill proposed by Representative John Payne (R-Dauphin County).

Davis has called that level of taxation “reasonable,” and says that money raised from online gaming could go to various funds, with about 55 percent heading towards property tax relief in the state.

Her bill would also require players to register in person at one of the state’s casinos before they would be allowed to play online.

This measure has proven unpopular when proposed in other states, with one legislator in California, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, pulling it out of his bill after it was criticized. But for Davis, the most important thing is that the bill maintains the integrity of gaming in the states and protects players, something that forcing casinos to be a part of the approval process could help achieve.

“A responsible internet gaming system must be created in order to protect Pennsylvanians and the success of the established gaming industry in the Commonwealth, which has generated more than $7 billion in state tax revenue, and created more than 16,000 jobs statewide,” Davis wrote earlier this year.

Payne’s Bill May Have Best Chance of Success

While Davis has already attracted several co-sponsors for her bill, it may be difficult for it to receive attention in the shadow of Payne’s proposal.

Payne has the advantage of being the chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, which could put him in a better position to advance his bill. There’s also a third bill that has been proposed by Representative Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware County), which could prove popular if Pennsylvania legislators want to go with a “poker-only” model similar to the one used in Nevada.

At some point, efforts to legalize online poker in the state will likely coalesce around one of the three bills, as some of the same legislators are co-sponsors of both the Davis and Payne proposals. Notably, Davis is a co-sponsor of Payne’s bill, though he hasn’t sponsored her version of the legislation.

Step right up, ladies and gents, and watch very closely to see the amazing outcome.

 Morgan Stanley Internet gambling casinos

New York-based Morgan Stanley believes online gambling in America isn’t as promising as it once forecasted, cutting its projections nearly in half. (Image: Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times)

Morgan Stanley has reduced its initial estimate on the economic five-year potential of Internet gambling in the United States from $5 billion to $2.7 billion, a cutback accredited to disappointing revenues and lackadaisical approaches politicians on the state level have taken in passing legislation.

The financial services firm has now placed projections for 2020 at a significantly lower valuation.

“We continue to believe that there is a material runway for growth, but results have been disappointing,” the corporation wrote in its report. “Legislative processes continue to be slow as lawmakers remain unconvinced that online gaming is currently worth the hassle for limited tax revenue.”

For Now, Forecast Gloomy

In addressing its reasons for the downgrading, Morgan Stanley points to several factors hindering the capability of the market:

The poor payment processing technologies utilized by online casinos with legalized iGaming has created a difficult environment for sustainable revenue streams.

Advertising campaigns on the part of both network operators and the casinos haven’t been convincing in relaying its message. Thus, poor marketing is being blamed for less than expected participation levels.

Geolocation technologies, vital in the account creation process to assure players are residing in states with legalized online casinos, have underperformed in allowing those eligible from connecting.

Offshore sites are thriving, and with limited regulatory conditions in place, the process is much simpler and easier for US-based gamblers to join.

Additional States Coming?

One area that notably sticks out in the report is the firm’s belief that no additional states will pass Internet gambling regulations in 2015. “Legislative processes continue to be slow as lawmakers remain unconvinced that online gaming is currently worth the hassle for limited tax revenue,” the report read.

The good news is that the conglomerate does foresee California, Pennsylvania, New York, and Illinois legalizing online gaming within the next few years, with as many as 15 following suit by 2020. According to analysts, the smaller states will quickly shadow larger ones as the heavy-hitters begin to increase tax revenues from Internet casinos.

Federal Ban Looming?

With all the RAWA hoopla in recent weeks, many might believe Morgan Stanley’s dim estimates are simply a result of Las Vegas Sand’s Chairman Sheldon Adelson’s persistence in convincing congressional members to continue pushing for a total federal ban.

However, the indecision among both party’s constituents regarding restoring the Wire Act to its pre-2012 directive makes the bill doubtful.

“We believe a federal ban of online gaming is unlikely given legislators’ split views,” the company wrote. “However, a recent hearing in a House Judiciary subcommittee on US Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s proposal for a ban suggests it could be gaining momentum.”

That momentum, as various gambling outlets have predicted, won’t lead to RAWA being passed. “While the bill may advance out of committee, we believe it faces long odds of passing, especially without carve-outs for online lotteries and existing online gaming states.”

Though the overall opinion on Morgan Stanley’s dramatic diminution is certainly unwelcomed by those involved in the market, the news isn’t a total bust. The firm’s belief that online gambling will continue to expand across America and a federal ban is unlikely should only strengthen the industry’s long-term outlook.

Republican Jewish Coalition Sheldon Adelson GOP

Sheldon Adelson, Republican Jewish Coalition board member and casino mogul, could have a significant influence on the GOP’s eventual 2016 presidential nominee, not to mention federal online gambling policies. (Image: Tim Chong/Reuters)

Sheldon Adelson’s name is without question one of the most powerful on the American power grid, and with both online gaming and an approaching US presidential bid in the offing, the man who wields his strength like an axe will be having plenty of input in both categories.

Adelson’s Support Sought by Republican Candidates

It’s no news that having the backing of Sheldon Adelson for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination would be like winning the lottery, literally, for the chosen candidate.

That’s why contenders have been seeking out any and all opportunities to pay homage to the influential casino magnate and multibillionaire whose voice will no doubt have influence on the playout of American online gambling.

With the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) holding its Spring Leadership Meeting April 24th to 26th at the Venetian Resort and Hotel in Las Vegas, you can be sure all the annointed will be in attendance.

The annual political weekend is an opportune time for Republican Party leaders to connect with one of its wealthiest and most influential donors in Las Vegas Sands Chairman Adelson, a casino tycoon reportedly worth upwards of $30 billion.

Key Candidate for Online Gaming and Beyond

Those involved in the casino industry know Adelson’s strong opposition to Internet gambling, of course. He’s a chief proponent of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a legislative measure that would ban all forms of online gaming.

But while he’s said he’ll spend whatever it takes for RAWA to pass, it isn’t actually Adelson’s main priority in deciding who he’ll back. Embracing a pro-Israel foreign policy is his foremost policy concern. As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s polls tightened this year, Adelson stepped in to help the rightist leader win reelection by a not-so-slim margin.

Adelson was invited to a Joint Meeting of Congress in early March to denounce the Obama administration’s current US policy on the Iran-Israel conflict.

Looking for a Voice

The RJC website says its goal is to give the Jewish Republican an influential voice in Washington and across the country. It lists three basic principles of its mission: protect national security, create a smaller federal government, and support a low-tax, free-enterprise economic policy.

The organization, which is headquartered in DC, has become one of the biggest backers of the Grand Old Party. Among the notable names scheduled to attend the Spring Leadership Meeting include 43rd President George W. Bush, current Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney (who received Adelson’s beneficent support without success).

In addition to its grassroots presence around the country, the RJC Political Action Committee (PAC) supports candidates reflecting the group’s priorities and principals both politically and financially.

It’s the latter that potential candidates so desperately seek, as campaign contributions from RJC, and most notably Adelson, could play a significant role in determining which politician survives the primary and wins the Republican nomination.

Candidates Make Their Pitch

Besides Bush, Boehner, and Romney, several current and former lawmakers toying with a 2016 run will deliver speeches to the RJC audience.

One of these is former Texas Governor Rick Perry, a 2012 primary contestant who fell to Romney, who is reportedly interested in giving the White House another go. Rick PAC, Perry’s political action committee, has named roughly 80 Republican bigwigs to its advisory board, and the list features many former Romney supporters.

Fellow Texas politician Senator Ted Cruz, another possible presidential candidate, is also scheduled to speak, as is current Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

Last year’s Spring Leadership Meeting also attracted other GOP White House contenders, including former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Governors Scott Walker (R-WI) and Chris Christie (R-NJ).

The aspiring nominees for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue all share a similar goal in wanting to land the backing of the RJC and Adelson. For the 2012 election season, Adelson spent nearly $100 million, first on Newt Gingrich, and then on failed Republican contender Romney.

What Does Adelson Really Want?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech in DC, which was well-received by Republicans and largely unattended by Democrats, helped lead him to victory earlier this week. It’s largely expected that Netanyahu will rebuild and redefine the role of government in Israel, creating a more conservative mandate for his controlling party’s leaders.

And that’s precisely what Adelson wants, both in Israel and stateside. In the US, the billionaire will no doubt look for a politician who shares his values and is open to a little influencing. After all, that’s the name of the political game, whether it’s towards online gambling or nuclear armaments.