At G2E, Sheldon Adelson reiterates disdain for Internet gambling

John Locher / AP

Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson speaks at the Global Gaming Expo on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in Las Vegas.

Sheldon Adelson continued his crusade against online gaming on Wednesday, passionately opposing its legalization during an appearance at a major gaming industry trade show.

Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands, is arguably the loudest critical voice against legal gambling on the Internet. He made his latest remarks during a keynote discussion on the second full day of the Global Gaming Expo, or G2E.

Saying that “when you’re on the Internet, you cannot know your customer,” Adelson suggested that it’s easy for underage players to gamble online.

He was responding to questions from Roger Gros, the publisher of Global Gaming Business, who pushed back on the casino magnate’s objections. Gros said, “You know your customer better on the Internet than you do in person” in defense of online gaming’s ability to authenticate players’ identities.

But Adelson would hear none of it, especially when it came to the idea that online gaming should be legalized because it already happens.

“Then why don’t we legalize prostitution? Why don’t we legalize cocaine and heroin?” he asked. “That’s not a good reason, to say that they’re doing it anyway.”

Many audience members applauded in response.

Adelson’s remarks should be unsurprising to those who follow the gaming industry. As several states — including Nevada — have legalized online gambling, Adelson has led the organized opposition. He’s bankrolled the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, a nonprofit dedicated to outlawing the business nationwide.

And he made similar comments about online gaming this year, including to a crowd of UNLV students in May. As he did then, Adelson told the crowd on Wednesday that he fears online gaming will exploit the poor by essentially making gambling too accessible.

“I don’t want those people to get abused because when I look at people like that I see the faces of my parents,” he said, evoking his family’s lower-income background. “I just don’t see that there is any compelling reason to put an electronic casino in 318 million hands.”

Earlier in his wide-ranging conversation with Gros, Adelson spoke of his company’s success in China, where he’s helped transform Macau into an international gambling hub.

Back before Macau rose to such prominence and its Cotai Strip was nonexistent, Adelson said he had a vision of making the region “Asia’s Las Vegas.” Now the area is home to Adelson’s Venetian Macau, the Wynn Macau, the MGM Macau and dozens of other casinos.

Despite declines in gambling revenue there in recent months, he made it clear that he hasn’t given up on that dream.

“Everything that I’ve seen happen in the last 13 years when I first was exposed to Macau is cyclical — it comes and goes,” Adelson said. “It’s like gambling: You start off at a baseline, sometimes you’re up, sometimes you’re down.”