Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and the 10th richest man in the world, according to Forbes, remains the single biggest donor opposing Amendment 2. In June Adelson donated $2.5 million to the Drug Free Florida Committee’s campaign against Amendment 2. Adelson is one of the Republican Party’s biggest backers; in 2012 he donated $150 million to Republican candidates, most of whom lost their races in the 2012 elections.

Adelson Backing Medical Cannabis Research in Israel While Opposing Medical Cannabis in Florida

Adelson’s $2.5 million donation to oppose Amendment 2 appears to be his first contribution opposing drug policy reform. In fact, Adelson established a research center in Israel, the Adelson Center for the Biology of Addictive Diseases at Tel Aviv University, which has studied the medical properties of cannabis. Researchers at the Adelson Center concluded that cannabis and cannabinoids could be used to treat brain injuries and degenerative diseases like Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. In a statement about research done at the Adelson Center using cannabis to treat mice with MS-like symptoms, researcher Dr. Ewa Kozela said that, “compounds isolated from marijuana can be used to regulate inflammation to protect the nervous system and its functions.”

While Adelson and his wife also established the Dr. Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson Clinic for Drug Abuse Treatment & Research, Inc., which primarily deals with addiction to opiates and opioids, he has made no other contributions to oppose drug policy reform or ballot initiatives to legalize medical or recreational cannabis in other areas around the country this year, such as in Oregon, Alaska, Washington DC, and the US Virgin Islands. Adelson’s casino company, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, has been desperately lobbying to open up a casino in the Sunshine State. The table games market in Florida is currently controlled by the Seminole Tribe, per a legal agreement the tribe has with the State of Florida. The legal agreement with the tribe is referred to as a compact, and the terms of the compact expire next year.

Casinos and the Gubernatorial Race Possible Motivations Behind Adelson’s $2.5 Million Contribution Against Amendment 2

The state legislature was working on gambling legislation, but after being pressured by Gov. Scott, the Speaker of the Florida House, Rep. Will Weatherford, declared that the “lights” were “out” on gambling bills for the 2014 legislative session. Gov. Rick Scott believed that the legislation would hurt his negotiations with the Seminole Tribe. It was the legislature’s halting of gambling bills that prompted Sheldon Adelson to stop being the huge contributor he had been to Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign. There were rumors that Adelson had ended his hopes of opening a Las Vegas-style resort casino in Florida and had decided to pull out of the state. The next Governor of Florida will play a huge role in the compact with Seminoles and the future of the gambling industry in Florida, and some are speculating that Adelson’s contribution to oppose Amendment 2 was made in hopes of boosting support for Gov. Scott. Given the Governor’s ability to shape the gaming compact and legislation, if Scott wins re-election that could lead to the approval of Vegas-style resort casinos in south Florida, like the one Adelson hopes to build. However, Disney is lobbying heavily against expanding casinos in Florida.

“This out-of-state financial assistance from a long-time Republican political player is further evidence that leaders of both political party persuasions understand the stakes involved,” Paul Armentano, the Deputy Director for NORML, told Vice Magazine. “Florida is a bell-weather state and passage of marijuana law reform, for the first time, in the southeastern United States would likely have sweeping national ramifications.” Adelson is not the only out of state contributor, but he is the largest. However, the United for Care campaign continues to beat their opponents in fundraising and in opinion polls, it seems that Adelson’s “seed money” may not be enough to convince voters to reject Amendment 2 at the polls this November.

Attempts to reach Sheldon Adelson for comment were unsuccessful.

Check back for Part 2: Who is Behind the No On 2 Campaign? Big Tobacco and Former Drug Czar Fight Amendment 2