EXETER, N.H.—Marco Rubio denied Thursday that his sponsorship of an anti-online gambling bill had anything to do with his bid to win Sheldon Adelson’s endorsement.
The Florida senator has assiduously courted the billionaire casino mogul, who spent approximately $100 million on the 2012 campaign and could spend as much or more in 2016.
Adelson opposes the proliferation of online gambling, which is a threat to his brick-and-mortar casinos. This bill, which would essentially block states from loosening rules related to betting on the Internet, is his top legislative priority. It would directly boost his company’s bottom line.
Sign up for The Daily 202, The Washington Post’s new political tipsheet
Rubio signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill Wednesday evening, raising eyebrows and prompting questions from reporters after a town hall here in the Granite State.
“People buy into my agenda. I don’t buy into theirs,” he said. “When I run for office, I tell people where I stand … My stands are not influenced by my contributors; I hope my stands influence my contributors.”
Rubio said he has “a long history of opposing the expansion of gambling,” dating back to his tenure as Speaker of the Florida state House.
“I believe that for the most part, especially that kind of gambling, is a tax on the poor and does little to develop the economy,” he said.
In the past, Rubio has been highly critical of the gaming industry in Las Vegas. On Thursday, he was much more measured.
“Vegas is Las Vegas,” he told reporters at the end of a press availability. “They have a right in Las Vegas to have any gambling they want. They have laws. They have legislators. They can vote on what they want or don’t want. In Florida, I have a long history of opposing expansion of gambling. When you talk about online gambling, that comes into Florida. That is potentially people, including young people, who are going to go online and gamble and lose money. I just don’t believe that’s the right approach for our country.”
Before being elected to the Senate, Rubio said his anti-gambling stance grew out of spending six years of his childhood in Vegas. In March 2009, he decried efforts to expand gambling in Florida as immoral and “fool’s gold.”
In 2011, again opposing more gambling in south Florida, he pointed to maladies in Nevada.
“Nevada is the gambling mecca of the United States and it has a higher unemployment rate [and] their housing market is upside down,” he said. “They are hurting in Nevada.”
Read more PowerPost