Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish casino billionaire and political donor extraordinaire, has an unlikely benefactor – the citizens of Nevada. As part of a consortium of investors relocating the Oakland Raiders to the nation’s gambling capital, Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands company helped push through the state legislature $750 million in public funding to build a football stadium in the city.
On Friday, the legislature narrowly approved the deal, and Adelson’s representatives exulted.
“It’s exciting,” gushed Andy Abboud, head lobbyist for Las Vegas Sands, in an interview with the Associated Press. “But this is really about jobs, and I think at the end of the day people saw this as a fantastic economic stimulus package.”
Abboud and supporters of the stadium claimed that the project would create 14,000 permanent jobs, and 25,000 construction jobs in the short term.
Critics have disputed those numbers, and slammed the public funding as a special interest subsidy. “Score another one for crony capitalist boondoogles,” fumed Anthony L. Fisher in the libertarian Reason Magazine. He disputed the idea that Nevada would experience growth in employment and tax receipts in exchange for its largesse.
Aside from the state backing, Las Vegas Sands and the Raiders will shoulder the construction expenses, chipping in $650 million and $500 million, respectively.
Adelson wields considerable influence in Las Vegas and Nevada. Financial kingmaker to Republican politicians in the United States and the rightwing in Israel, he also has thrown his money around in his hometown.
Last year, in a shadowy move that raised concerns about journalistic ethics, the casino owner bought the city’s newspaper record, the Las Vegas Review-Journal and fired numerous staffers viewed as hostile to him.
Nonetheless, the move was cheered by representatives of the construction trade, who said their workers have been ailing since the Great Recession. “It means the world for our families,” union organizer Kevin McLin told the AP. “The stadium is going to be the hero for everybody.”
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Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.