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May 3, 2015

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Wynn, Adelson spread influence to state-level races


Paul Takahashi

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson attends a special “sundown” caucus at the Adelson Educational Campus that capped off the Nevada GOP presidential caucuses on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

Steve Wynn

Las Vegas casino moguls have won both acclaim and derision for their roles in financing national political campaigns this year.

But they’ve also spent considerable money to influence Nevada legislative races.

Companies controlled by Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson, the two most vocal casino operators who have been critical of national Democrats, particularly President Barack Obama, have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Republican group focused on state-level races, according to IRS filings and interviews with Republican operatives.

That committee, the Republican State Leadership Committee, has been funding mail pieces in the five competitive Nevada Senate races that will determine whether Republicans can wrest control of the state’s upper house from Democrats.

The Republican State Leadership Committee received a $475,000 contribution from Wynn Resorts in July, and $150,000 from the Las Vegas Sands, the company controlled by Adelson, in 2011.

Multiple Republican political sources confirmed that additional sums targeted at the state Senate level had been committed by the companies, though they would not provide exact figures. Tax documents for the group, which voluntarily reports contributions and expenses on a monthly basis, were only available for the period through Aug. 31.

Adam Temple, spokesman for the RSLC, said donations can’t be “earmarked” to be spent in a specific place.

“We get involved in states where control of a chamber is up for grabs,” he said. “Nevada is a state where clearly there are competitive races. The margin for control is tight.”

To take back control of the state Senate, Republicans will have to win four out of five of the competitive seats. A recent Democratic surge in voter registration has given some of these seats significant Democratic voter registration advantages.

The state’s major casino companies have a history of contributing to both sides in Nevada political races, and for many companies — MGM, Boyd, Caesars — that is likely to remain true.

But the concerted effort by Wynn and Adelson’s companies — whose chief executives had, until recently, a longstanding feud — comes as conservative business interests have become frustrated by Democratic control of both houses of the Legislature since 2009.

One GOP source with knowledge of the effort said: “We’ve seen session after session, that Democrats have advanced plans to massively increase taxes on Nevada job providers. We believe a Republican-controlled Senate would be more business friendly.”

Asked to respond to the third-party expenditures in the competitive races, Democratic Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, would only defend his party’s record in Carson City.

"This election has made it clear that the Democrats have a proven record of fighting for better schools, more teachers in the classroom and protecting the middle class,” Denis said in a statement.

State campaigns will have to report contributions and expenses next week. But those contributions are limited to $10,000 per entity, including corporations. No such limitations exist for national political nonprofit groups such as the RSLC.

A Las Vegas Sands representative did not return calls for comment. A Wynn spokesman said the company would have no comment on Wednesday about state Senate races.

But both Adelson and Wynn have been outspoken in their criticism of national Democrats.

Most recently, Wynn told Las Vegas political commentator Jon Ralston that Obama had spurred class warfare.

“I’ll be damned if I want him to lecture me about small business and jobs,” he told Ralston. “I’m a job creator. Guys like me are job creators and we don’t like having a bull's-eye put on our backs.”

“I can’t stand the idea of being demagogued, that is being put down, by a president who hasn’t created any jobs and doesn’t even understand how the economy works,” he added.

Billy Vassiliadis, lead lobbyist for the Nevada Resort Association, said that executives from casino companies have sat down with the four caucuses — the Republicans and Democrats in the Assembly and Senate — in an effort to determine who to support.

“This year, in an almost unprecedented way, the membership has taken a great interest in individual members,” he said. He expected casino company contributions to go to candidates of both parties.

“I honestly believe that my members don’t robotically follow each other,” he said. “They’re all pretty independent thinkers.”

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  1. "This election has made it clear that the Democrats have a proven record of fighting for better schools, more teachers in the classroom and protecting the middle class," Democratic Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas said in a statement. Perhaps the good Senator, and the rest of us, might be better off if he listened to these guys instead of mouthing platitudes and "talking points." They aren't just blowing smoke. They have a huge investment in the welfare of Las Vegas and employ 10s of 1,000s. Wynn is a dedicated Democrat; Adelson a Republican stalwart. That they both agree on this issue should be a wake-up call. It's time to quit bad mouthing success!

  2. Somebody has to stop the lying, corrupt Democrats. Good for Wynn and Adelson.

  3. (Let's set the table for this discussion, a discussion in years past that would not be.)

    As a private citizen everyone has the right to openly participate in elections as voters, to volunteer in helping register new voters, and to help the candidate of your choice by donating time or money.

    Gaming, casino type gambling, has always been considered a privilege. Not a right. The State of Nevada Gaming Commission and Gaming Board are considered the Gold Standard in gaming regulatory and compliance.

    Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson are two gaming executives known throughout the Nation. Why? Steve Wynn was once in light of doing no wrong as a gaming operator. A quality money maker. Mr. Wynn has set the standards for gaming in Las Vegas. If the rooms rates went up---it was because the Mirage or the Bellagio rates went up. Everyone followed suit, following with lower rates because the service and product quality at a Steve Wynn hotel and casino was considered greater, better than the other casinos and hotels up and down the Las Vegas strip. Mr. Wynn has paid his dues, if there were any. Starting down town with the Golden Nugget, then in Atlantic City, helping transform Las Vegas into a global entertainment destination for vacationers.

    Sheldon Adelson on the other hand is a late comer to Las Vegas gaming. Mr Adelson didn't earn his way into gaming operations as did people like Bill Harrah, Mike Ensign, and Steve Wynn. Mr. Adelson is considered an outsider. COMDEX, was Sheldon Adelson's key into the Las Vegas gaming market. Charging high booth rent to convention vendors, Mr. Adelson made millions. Mr. Adelson fought with the gaming operators whenever COMDEX was in town. Why? Because COMDEX, and convention attendees were not considered gamblers. The tables were empty throughout the Las Vegas casinos when COMDEX was in town. Well, what did the gamers do? They raised room rate, and raise the rates high. And you know what? The hotels were full, the convention folks paid the money, actually the companies paid the money. And thus began the love hate relationship with gaming and conventions. Either like Mr. Adelson or not, he is directly responsible for establishing Hotel revenues as the larger income piece of the pie. Plus this opened up other streams of revenues for gaming operators. This help expand revenues into the non-gaming areas. Unplanned, with an unaware cooperation, Sheldon Adelson and the gamers helped Las Vegas companies recognize the benefit of marketing to a wider audience.......................................

  4. ............Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson are looked upon differently because of their openly public involvement in politics. It's not so about the involvement, it's how they are involved. Steve Wynn ranting on cable news, and recently the interview with Jon Ralston. If you saw the interview you would not be please, you would see a different Steve Wynn from the commercials. Adelson, well,...saying you will donate over 100 million dollars into a Republican Presidential campaign with highly questionable tactics has many people in high places taken a second look as to what Mr. Adelson is trying to buy for $100 million.

    Gaming is taken a hit because of these two. In Las Vegas, we love these guy. Why? Because they are job creators. There are other gamers who are job creators, and have their preference of politics. But we don't see or hear about them. As it should be. Gaming is a privilege. A privilege! The States approve gaming, not the Federal government. A privilege, not a right. Wynn and Adelson will hurt the expansion of gaming with their actions. People in other states will not like how these two are bullying with their power, money that comes from Americans, and aboard, visiting Las Vegas.

    Online Poker, forget about! It ain't happening! Why? You all should know the answer. Harry Reid and Dean Heller are wasting their time and the poker advocates time. Online Poker already has issues. Wynn and Adelson are adding to them.

    And finally, both Wynn and Adelson have major problems internally and externally. They are compounding their problems, and it's spilling over and affecting all domestic gaming business. We all would like to see both of them tone down and honor long standing rules from the past.

  5. Anyone that thinks On-line Poker is not coming is not paying attention.

    You will see it no later then the end of 2013.

    Wanting Mr. Adelson and Mr. Wynn to tone it down is asking them to give up the same rights that you have. They just have the ability to do it in a much grander way. It is all to scale. You post here, they get the national news attention. Why? Because more people think more of what they have to say than what you have to post.

  6. Get money out of politics and stop allowing the obscenely wealthy to buy our elections.

    Middle class Americans didn't start the class warfare and Democrats didn't spur class warfare.

    However, if the middle class doesn't win the class war that failed elite started then they sure as h*** will lose everything.

    Being rich doesn't make you a job creator or an expert on fair policies. It too often makes them self rationalize that they are though. Rich doesn't make right (Our founding fathers knews this.)

  7. @Vegaslee,

    Thanks Vegaslee, you made my point clear, it seems that was not your intentions. I have read your post in past, you appear to know the larger picture being projected.

    It's how these two are making their point, their voices heard. And more importantly it's who they are.

    Lawmakers throughout the country are taking notice. I disagree that online poker will be approved in 2013. Totally disagree. Even it President Obama is not re-election. The votes are not there. And there additional is opposition to Federal approval. That's the reality, the number aren't there for approval. Not in 2013, or 2014.

    Yes, tone down the talk, absolutely. Bullying is not an accepted persuasive tool no longer.

    Gaming is a privilege industry. Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson are private citizens, Yes! However, when you speak using gaming as your hammer, as a tool for your personal preference of political candidates, your crossing line my friend.

  8. One question ----to all job creators, where are all those jobs you are supposed to have this moment, you can't even build an out house without HELP---

  9. Just like the Walton family - big wigs of Wal-Mart. They don't want any change that would result in less money in their pockets. They want things to stay the same where they can pay employees as little as possible. These same employees that can barely make ends meet. They get paid pennies so the fat cats can get richer. Yeah, there's a redistribution of wealth and it's making the rich, even richer.

  10. The biggest question of all though is of everyone here who has an opinion, how many of you will actually go out and vote, let alone encourage others to do so?

  11. The Rich, White Oligarchs...

    Amazin' as it seems to me, many Americans, Nevadans, Las Vegans & Sun commenters think it's just peachy that a couple of Casino Magnates & other uber-wealthy folk that comprise the 1 percent can throw their substantial weight around in the political arena to such an extent that it virtually negates the voices & votes of the ordinary, mundane, but never-the-less equally protected by the Constitution citizenry of our country...

    Are ya SURE this is okay with you?
    It's an abdication of duty for the 'commoners' to relinquish their formerly equal footing, IMO...and an indication that we, as a nation, are in decline...not irreversible, necessarily, but in great peril, nonetheless.