- - Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mega-billionaire Sheldon Adelson is a reminder that even the devil can quote scripture.

He has acquired a $36 billion fortune by catering to the human cravings for casino gambling and illicit or promiscuous sex. As the advertising jingle goes, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

In Dante’s Inferno, gambling lands you in the fourth circle of hell, while lust lands you in circle two.

These vices routinely destroy or impoverish families. Children are left without proper role models or support.

In 2013, Mr. Adelson’s operations extracted more than $13 billion from the pockets of adults to gratify sordid pleasures. The Venetian alone in Las Vegas corrupts 50,000 patrons daily.

The casino billionaire is the last person on the planet qualified to sermonize about business morality — indistinguishable from Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich crooning about the virtues of marital fidelity.

But his craving for wealth by any means is beyond embarrassment. Consider the following spectacle.

Mr. Adelson’s casino riches could be diminished if the current legal restraints on Internet gambling are relaxed or eliminated. In the manner of a deathbed conversion, Mr. Adelson is preaching against competition for casinos in the guise of a belated passion for moral virtue but in reality to preserve his opulence.

He has pontificated: “My moral standard compels me to speak out on this issue because I am the largest company by far in the industry and I am willing to speak out. I don’t see any compelling reason for the government to allow people to gamble on the Internet and nobody has ever explained except for the two companies whose special interest is going to be served if there is gaming on the Internet, Caesar and MGM.”

True enough. There is no compelling reason for Internet gambling. But there is equally no compelling reason for casino gambling and sister debaucheries. The nation would profit if both were discouraged or stigmatized. Gambling does not gain in its depravity by its movement from the casino floor to an Internet cafe.

Mr. Adelson insists that he would never enter the business of Internet gambling — no matter how profitable — because “it’s a moral issue for me. If a stockholder said to me ‘your morality can’t count when it comes to making money for shareholders,’ I see it from a business point as very harmful to all the companies that go into it.”

Does Mr. Adelson think we were born yesterday? He is refraining from Internet gambling not because of moral scruples — assuming he has any — but because he believes it’s a losing business proposition.

He taxes our credulity even more by arguing that his opposition to Internet gambling pivots on his weeping concern for the young, the indigent, and alcohol and drug addicts. He suggests he is traumatized by the propsect that they will squander money online that they cannot afford to lose. In contrast, Mr. Adelson insinuates, his land-based casinos vet patrons for their financial ability to withstand gambling losses. Only a dunce would believe that.

Mr. Adelson is an improbable candidate for sympathizing with the poor. He revels in ostentation. He owns several private jets, including a Boeing 747. He supported Republian Mitt Romney’s bid for the presidency, along with his sneering assertion that 47 percent of the people are sponges who believe they are entitled to a cushy life at government expense.

When Mr. Adelson descends from his bejeweled moral pedestral, his ulterior motives become apparent. He maintains that online gambling is “suicidal” for the U.S. casino industry in the long run and will destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs. (Here, Mr. Adelson sounds like the reactionary Luddites who opposed the introduction of labor-saving machinery for the identical reason.)

Mr. Adelson also preaches that his online casino gambling oppostion derives from his worries as a concerned father, grandfather, citizen, and patriot for the general welfare. But his lavish support for the morally odious Mr. Gingrich in his 2012 presidential fling discredits Mr. Adelson’s claim that his life is dicatated by moral concerns. Ditto for locating his prime casinos in Las Vegas, which is synonymous with sin, not piety.

The casino mogul should stick to making money.

There is no role for him in a morality play.

For more information on Bruce Fein, visit brucefeinlaw.

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