'Patron-in-chief’: Trump Reportedly Helps Promote Mega-donor Adelson's Casino Business in Japan

The casino mogul, a Netanyahu ally, has a quid-pro-quo relationship with Trump, nonprofit news group ProPublica reports

U.S. President Donald Trump (right) and Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Leah Millis / Reuters, Kioyshi Ota / Bloomberg

U.S. President Donald Trump has helped promote Sheldon Adelson's business interests, ProPublica reported Wednesday, documenting the alleged strong influence of the Republican mega-donor on the White House’s policies.

According to the investigative report, Trump helped push the Jewish-American casino magnate’s business interests in Japan by asking Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to let Adelson build a casino in his country, where gambling was illegal until recently.

The article is headlined “Trump’s Patron-in-Chief.” According to ProPublica, Adelson gave more than $20 million to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and $5 million to his inauguration, in addition to dozens of millions to Republican groups and candidates. According to ProPublica, a nonprofit news organization, that money has made him incredibly influential on the Trump administration.

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According to the article, in February 2017, Adelson visited Washington when Abe was in town to meet with Trump. Soon after Adelson had dinner with the president, Trump spoke with Abe and brought up Adelson’s wish to build a casino in Japan.

“Trump raised Adelson’s casino bid to Abe, according to two people briefed on the meeting,” ProPublica wrote. “The Japanese side was surprised.”

One person briefed on the exchange described Trump’s decision to raise this issue as “totally out of the blue.”

Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation could make billions of dollars in profits from operating a casino in Japan, according to the report. For years Japan has banned the operation of casinos in the country, but last year, soon after Trump entered the White House, parliament passed a law that would give licenses to three casinos under certain conditions.

According to ProPublica, Adelson expressed confidence soon after Trump’s inauguration that his company would land a license to operate in Japan. A week after Trump raised the issue with Abe, Adelson flew to Tokyo, where he met with the secretary-general of Abe’s party, ProPublica wrote.

A spokesman for Adelson told the publication that “the gaming industry has long sought the opportunity to enter the Japan market. Gaming companies have spent significant resources there on that effort and Las Vegas Sands is no exception.”

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The spokesman said the only reason Adelson’s company could have an advantage in Japan is its successful operation in other Asian markets such as Macau and Singapore.

Adelson is highly involved in Israeli politics. He is the owner of Israel Hayom, a free daily that the right-wing education and defense ministers have compared to Pravda because of its role as a mouthpiece to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last year, Netanyahu lost a court battle regarding his contacts with Adelson and Israel Hayom’s senior editors, forcing him to release information about his frequent communications with them.

During a 2014 event of a pro-Israel group that Adelson donates to, he said Israel does not necessarily need to be a democracy. “I think God didn’t say anything about democracy. He didn’t talk about Israel remaining as a democratic state,” Adelson said, adding, “Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so what?”