Billionaire, Israel supporter, staunch Republican and Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson wants to invest at least billion in an Atlanta, Georgia casino, said his former top deputy, Mike Leven, chief executive at the Georgia Aquarium. Adelson’s web of influence in the state includes donating million to former Georgia congressman Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, and he is board chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition, which also includes Atlanta-based Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus.
Regarding 82-year old Adelson, Leven said, “He’s a guy with a very good heart. He’s controversial for sure. He’s dynamic and aggressive. But he makes enormous contributions to every community he’s been in. And that’s what people should be looking at.”
After abandoning plans to build a destination casino in South Florida, Adelson quietly visited Georgia in September to remind legislators about Las Vegas Sands. Lawmakers soon will consider legalizing casino gambling as a source of HOPE scholarship funds. Adelson met with House Speaker David Ralston, who said, “We talked about his experiences in the business world and specifically as it related to that industry. And then, truthfully, we spent a good bit of time talking about the Iran nuclear arrangement. And he gets pretty animated about that. It was a wide-ranging visit.” Adelson also met with Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal was out of the state, but said following Adelson’s visit he will actively urge legislators to vote against expanded gambling. Adelson did not donate to Deal’s re-election campaign, but the two met and afterwards, Deal said, “I made the comment to him that I did not favor casinos in Georgia. And his comment back to me was that he didn’t either. And that he would oppose any effort in our state. And obviously something has changed. But it doesn’t change my opinion. I’m still opposed to it.”
MGM Resorts International has pledged $1 billion to building a casino resort in downtown Atlanta if gambling is approved. Boyd Gaming and Penn National also have scouted Georgia for possible casino locations. Leven said Adelson’s $2 billion resort would rival anyone’s as an “architectural wonder” that would attract millions of tourists and upscale Georgians to downtown Atlanta. “I know Sheldon as well as anybody. Sheldon’s a very passionate guy. He does what he says and he’s proud of it. I would have no fear if I were the state or the city.”