Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown said Thursday he is joining a coalition funded by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson that is fighting proposals to legalize Internet gambling in California. Brown previously was working in favor of Internet poker legislation.
Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco, joins a team that also includes former Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez of Los Angeles, a partner in Mercury Public Affairs, and Democratic political strategist Chris Lehane.
Mercury has been paid $175,000 during the last six months by Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. to lobby against Internet poker bills introduced by Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) and Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana). Internet gambling sites in California could become major competition to Las Vegas casinos.
Brown said he is the new national co-chair and California chair of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which has begun running Internet commercials in California warning of the negative impacts of Internet gambling.
“There are a multitude of reasons to oppose the expansion of Internet gambling," Brown said in an open letter. "I was once on the wrong side of this issue — speaking for and supporting Internet poker — but I have since learned about some of the tactics used by online gambling companies to lure young people."
A spokesman for the coalition said he did not know whether Brown was being compensated for his role with the coalition.
A coalition-produced commercial running on the Internet and soon planned for cable and broadcast television in California depicts a young boy using an iPod Touch. “It’s pretty cool. With Wi-Fi I figured out how to get on gambling sites with my dad’s login,” the boy says. “I especially like Blackjack.”