Sheldon Adelson Redirects Online Poker Fight to Combat Legalizing Pot

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Sheldon Adelson, the man with a vendetta against online poker, has recently shown his hand vis-a-vis the legalized pot debate.

Sheldon Adelson is taking time away from fighting online poker to push for a multi-state marijuana ban. (Image: Ethan Miller/Getty)

With eight states set to vote on marijuana reform in November, the country’s most polarizing billionaire is now hoping to swing the vote in favor of the cannabis naysayers. In much the same way that he’s spent millions of dollars to influence the narrative on online poker in the US, Adelson is now using his bankroll to help fund Arizona’s anti-marijuana movement.

According to reports by the Associated Press, Adelson has just given $500,000 to Arizona’s Responsible Drug Policy. Back in 2014, the mogul donated $5 million to oppose the medial marijuana movement in Florida, as well as $1 million to lobbyists in Nevada, which suggests he’s willing to dig deep to fight weed.

And if his protests against online poker are any indication of what’s to come, then marijuana advocates could soon hold him in the same contempt as some poker fans do.

Online Poker Blueprint for Legalized Marijuana

In fact, the Adelson connection isn’t the only parallel between the online poker industry and the legalization of marijuana. In the period following the federal ban against online poker, banks and payment processors virtually stopped serving online poker sites. This climate of fear didn’t simply vanish over night.

Back when New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware were giving the green light to state operators, a number of major banks were refusing to process player deposits. Despite iGaming’s legal status in all three states, numerous reports of players having credit card transactions decline rang out across the Internet.

Fortunately, as time went on and banks created special state codes for deposits and withdrawals for poker players, these problems have eased. But those same issues now appear to be plaguing legal marijuana dispensaries.

Under federal law, it’s illegal for banks and credit unions to take “marijuana money,” which leaves those involved in the industry with a major headache. Telling his story to’s Stateline, business owner Tim Cullen outlined how he’s made millions from marijuana, but had 14 checking accounts closed down in the last six years.

Switching Teams?

For US operators and players, this story will be all too familiar and may suggest that legalized marijuana advocates may face a similar political challenge to the one that poker players have. As it stands, US online poker is currently in a fractured state, and this fact, combined with the Adelson’s efforts, have stunted the industry’s growth. While many players would love to see more states regulate the game and start to share player pools, achieving this state of harmony seems to be a long way off.

The marijuana industry looks as though it’s heading for much of the same, and Adelson could be a major reason for it. In a world where curried favor is the currency, politicians and lobbyists are now pandering to the billionaire’s wishes in a bid to secure his future backing.

Of course, if Adelson decides to spend more time focusing on fighting marijuana, then it could mean he’s willing to let RAWA slip into the shadows. But with many billions in the bank and enough resources to fight multiple battles on numerous fronts, it’s unlikely we’ll get any respite from Adelson even if he is consumed by the pot issue.

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