Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Las Vegas Sands and Tom DeLay

I know, it's hard to believe that a billionaire casino magnate and an unbelievably corrupt Republican congressman could have anything to do with one another, but Connie Bruck of the New Yorker says it's so.

Sheldon Adelson is the CEO and majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands, which is worth almost $20 billion, which makes him the third richest man in America. The article is primarily about his tireless advocacy for (right-wing views of) Israel, but it also has good backstory on the deal that made his company what it is, namely the first and the biggest casino in Macau. They were not the only casino company willing to build a casino where China goes to gamble, but it appears they got that privilege in part because Adelson and DeLay are friends.

Sands was angling for the casino concession at the same time the Chinese were angling to host the 2008 Olympics. Though his city was considered the favorite, the mayor of Beijing was concerned about a bill being pushed in the House by a Democrat (natch) calling for Congress to oppose the selection of Beijing on account of human rights abuses or some noise.

Here is the account of the president of the company in a sworn deposition:

“About three hours later DeLay calls and he tells Sheldon, ‘You’re in luck,’ ” he continued, “ ‘because we’ve got a military-spending bill. . . . We’re not going to be able to move the bill, so you tell your mayor that he can be assured that this bill will never see the light of day.’ So Sheldon goes and he goes to the mayor and he says, ‘The bill will never see the light of day, Mr. Mayor. Don’t worry about it.’ ”

All else equal, that conversation probably didn't hurt Sheldon's chances of becoming a multi-billionaire.

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