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Adelson and Santorum Agree on Gambling

Last Thursday, Jim Geraghty speculated at National Review that Sheldon Adelson might have a business motive for his preferences in the Republican presidential race. Adelson has donated more than $10 million to keep Newt Gingrich’s campaign alive and has seemed to indicate he will support Mitt Romney if and when Gingrich throws in the towel. But Adelson doesn’t appear to be at all interested in Rick Santorum, the Republican who is currently leading in the national polls. That caused Geraghty to ponder whether Santorum’s opposition to gambling may be causing the casino mogul to want to keep Gingrich in the race so as to ensure that Santorum can’t beat Romney.

Given that Adelson’s priority is ensuring a strong pro-Israel alternative to President Obama and that Santorum is as solid a supporter of the Jewish state as Gingrich and Romney, Geraghty’s notion seemed logical. But this morning COMMENTARY received an e-mail letter-to-the-editor from Adelson’s office (in response to posts by Alana and myself on the subject of Santorum’s stand on gambling) that should debunk this thesis. It reads:

Regarding your February 16th article: “Santorum wants to ban gambling?”

I agree with Rick Santorum. I am in favor of the comment he made about destination casinos and I am, as he is, against any type of gaming on the Internet. You might also know I am not against Rick Santorum. I am in favor of Newt Gingrich.

Sheldon G. Adelson

This makes sense. After all, in the television interview in which Santorum state his opposition to the proliferation of casinos and Internet gambling, he made it clear he saw no problem with maintaining Las Vegas and Atlantic City as the two enclaves of legalized gaming. More legal gambling undermines Adelson’s business interests.

But I think the real mistake here is in attempting to re-interpret Adelson’s politics through the lens of his business rather than his beliefs. Adelson’s political and charitable contributions have never been primarily motivated by promoting his casino businesses but by his ardent and principled backing for the state of Israel. It was Gingrich’s decades-long stand on backing Israel that brought him together with Adelson. If Romney is Adelson’s second choice, it is almost certainly because he, like many other Republicans, believes the former Massachusetts governor has a better chance of beating Barack Obama in November.


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