Michigan Online Gambling Bill Linked to Amaya, Sheldon Adelson Backs Donald Trump

Posted on May 16th, 2016 by Jon Pineda
Michigan online gambling Mike Kowall

State Senator Mike Kowall’s Michigan online gambling bill is being condemned by some for his wife Eileen’s involvement with a lobbying firm that works on behalf of PokerStars’ owner Amaya. (Image: gophouse.org)

The Michigan online gambling bill (Senate Bill 889) introduced in mid-April by State Senate Mike Kowall (R-District 15) has recently been linked to Amaya, the Canadian interactive gaming conglomerate that owns PokerStars.

According to an investigative report by Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press, Kowall’s wife Eileen, a former Michigan state representative, now works for a consulting firm in Lansing that lobbies on behalf of businesses in the state capital.

MGS Consultants calls not only Eileen an employee, but Amaya a client.

Various organizations opposing iGaming legalization have quickly chastised the linkage between the state senator and what is perhaps the most powerful Internet gambling provider in the world.

Though the Kowalls say she has no involvement with his legislation and that Eileen doesn’t work on the Amaya account, Common Cause Michigan Executive Director Melanie McElroy told Egan it’s still “a pretty troubling set of circumstances.”

Spousal Support

Kowall’s online gambling bill, dubbed the “Lawful Internet Gaming Act,” would license operators at a hefty cost of $5 million each, with a portion of those funds being set aside for advance payment of Internet wagering taxes.

Internet casino companies would pay a 10 percent tax on their gross revenues and be forced to renew their licenses every five years. The legislation also calls for interstate multijurisdictional agreements, a key ingredient in a successful iPoker recipe.

The 10th largest state by population in the US, Amaya would greatly like to offer its PokerStars brand in Michigan. After paying $4.9 billion in 2014 for the parent companies of PokerStars and Full Tilt, Amaya presumably has plenty of cash on hand to spend lobbying in states across the country to increase its potential customer base and overall revenues.

SB 889 is currently in the state’s Senate Regulatory Reform Committee.

Adelson Supports Trump

The Michigan online gambling correlation between gaming supplier and legislator can be chalked up as nothing more than politics as usual. And in Washington, DC, the fish are even bigger.

Enter Sheldon Adelson, the $30 billion man who controls the Las Vegas Sands empire and has worked tirelessly over the last two years to pressure federal lawmakers into backing the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) and outlaw online gambling.

After months of silent political observance, Adelson said on May 13 he’s going to finance a large portion of Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign for the White House.

“After the 2012 election cycle, I was asked frequently what I would look for in a future presidential contender,” Adelson wrote in The Washington Post. “While I had some personal preferences because of friendships with some of the 2016 candidates . . . I am endorsing Trump’s bid for president.”

Four years ago, Adelson spent upwards of $100 million supporting then-GOP nominee Mitt Romney. The finances were of course unsuccessful in removing President Barack Obama from the Oval Office, but Adelson’s resolve was apparently not defeated.

Money talks, and the Vegas casino tycoon has no shame in using his wealth to promote his own policies.

“I’ve had the remarkable experience of being part of almost 50 different businesses,” Adelson concluded. “I think I’ve earned the right to talk about success and leadership.”

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