Mark Cuban backs Biden. Why was he so keen to sell the Mavs to Trump megadonors?

In another era, it might have been hailed as a commendable example of bipartisan bridge-building — a Republican megadonor teaming up with a staunchly anti-Donald Trump entrepreneur.

But in today’s politically polarized environment, it looks strange, even hypocritical: Mark Cuban is selling the Dallas Mavericks, currently riding high in the NBA playoffs, to Miriam Adelson, perhaps the Trumpiest billionaire of them all.

Late last year, Cuban, who called Trump a “snake oil salesman” and vowed to vote for Joe Biden over Trump even as Biden was on his deathbed, and transferred a majority stake in the NBA team for a reported $3.5 billion to the Adelson and Dumont families, controllers of the Las Vegas Sands casino company .

Adelson is the widow of Sheldon Adelson, a gambling magnate and generous patron of right-wing causes, who died in 2021. He was the largest donor to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, donating $25 million. He added $5 million for the inauguration festivities, a file such an individual contribution.

The Adelsons spent more than $91 million supporting Trump’s failed 2020 reelection effort. The politics were right, as part of a long-term spending spree of half a billion dollars on Republican causes. Miriam Adelson recently dined with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Politico reported this in March. In 2018, Trump awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the US’s highest civilian honor, joining posthumous honors for Babe Ruth, Elvis Presley and conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Why would Cuban align himself with a family that has arguably done more than anyone in the donor class to further the interests of a man he believes is disgusting and bad for America? Well, like any successful entrepreneur, Cuban is flexible.

Cuban and Trump have a long history of mutual antipathy dating back to their days as boisterous, dueling reality TV stars with a blunt social media presence; Trump has called the Cubans ‘fools’, among other things. Their rivalry predictably intensified as Cuban considered launching his own bid for the White House. But Cuban is not a die-hard Democrat: in 2017 he said he would run as “Republican before Democrat and most likely independent” and previously said that the rising Trump campaign is “probably the best thing to happen to politics in a long time” because of the real estate mogul’s “honest answers.”

Cuban has long been friends with the Adelsons, who greeted him in 2017 with an In Pursuit of Excellence Award at a gala in Las Vegas. And they offered him a tempting deal. The sale price represents a huge profit for Cuban, who bought the Mavericks in 2000 for $285 million. He also retains significant influence over the day-to-day management of the franchise, retaining a 27% stake and control of basketball operations and serving as alternate governor.

More than anything, the sale is a big bet on the future direction of Texas politics and puts the Mavericks at the forefront of the latest money-making strategies embraced by Major League franchises as they diversify revenue streams at the intersection of sports, real estate and gambling.

Another politically fungible owner, Steve Cohen of the New York Mets, donated $1 million to Trump’s inauguration fund. Recently he has been too Hanging out with And donate to the campaign of New York’s Democratic governor, Kathy Hochul, for which he is seeking endorsements a huge entertainment center anchored by a casino next to the Mets’ ballpark.

New York is one of them 38 states where sports betting is legal, following a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down a federal ban. Among the exceptions: Texas. Should that change, the Adelsons and Cuban will be poised to take advantage, with the Mavericks conveniently located in the nation’s fourth-largest metropolitan area, in the country’s second-most populous state.

The company that built the Venetian resort in Las Vegas seems to have something similarly grandiose in mind for Dallas. “When you look at destination resorts and casinos, the casino part of it is small compared to the whole larger destination aspect of it. Can you imagine building the Venetian in Dallas, Texas? That would change everything,” Cuban said told the Associated Press.

“The advantage is what you can build and where, and you need someone who is really good at that. Patrick [Dumont, Miriam Adelson’s son-in-law and president of Las Vegas Sands] and Miriam, they are the best in the world at what they do,” he added. “If you get a world-class partner that can come in and grow your revenue base and you’re not dependent on things that you were in the past, that’s a huge win.”

Donald Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Miriam Adelson in 2018. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

While there are no guarantees in the real estate and casino industries – as Trump was able to confirm – expansion should bring the Mavericks new, daily sources of revenue, reducing dependence on ticket sales and media rights as player salaries rise while the market for regional TV rights are in turmoil.

Casinos and sportsbooks are likely to become tempting additions to the now ubiquitous mixed-use development plans for shops, restaurants, hotels and apartments among team owners who view sports as an ownership game and seek to monetize the land around their stadiums.

“I think this is kind of the next step, opening the door to legalizing gambling in a state like Texas and then leading the way – since you already own an NBA team in Texas – to develop that sports team and integrate it with a casino, a resort,” said Stephen Shapiro, professor at the University of South Carolina’s Department of Sports and Entertainment Management.

“Some of the barriers between sports and gambling, between the sports leagues and teams and the sports gambling industry, have broken down, and that’s why you’re seeing these opportunities.”

The St Louis Cardinals have explored adding a sportsbook to their Ballpark Village project next to Busch Stadium should Missouri legalize sports betting, according to the Columbia Missourian. Another MLB team, the Oakland Athletics, is looking to move to Las Vegas and is partnering with the gaming company Bally’s to develop a site on the Strip with a baseball field and casino resort. The Ilitch family, which runs the Detroit Tigers and Detroit Red Wings, already owns a casino hotel in Detroit.

Cuban told the Dallas Morning News that he wants to build a new arena “in the middle of a resort and casino.” The team’s lease on its current home base, the American Airlines Center, expires in 2031. That gives Cuban and Adelson a few years to convince Texas lawmakers — and then Texas voterswhich would have to approve a constitutional amendment – ​​before negotiating a new location with civic leaders.

According to Forbes, Adelson has a net worth of more than $30 billion, compared to $5.4 billion for Cuba. In the midst of powerful years lobbying effortsshe has spent more than $4 million this year in a political action committee, Texas Sands PAC. In 2022, Adelson donated $1 million to the successful re-election campaign of Greg Abbott, the Republican governor of Texas.

Meanwhile, Rick Perry, the former governor of Texas and ex-Republican presidential hopeful, has acted as spokesperson for an industry association, the Texas Sports Betting Alliance, whose partners include leading betting companies and professional sports teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, Houston Rockets and Houston Astros. The Rockets are run by another Vegas casino billionaire, Tilman Fertitta, whose interests include the Golden Nugget chain, while the Cowboys’ owner, Jerry Jones, has tried to build a casino in Arkansas.

But previous attempts to replace the Republican-dominated and increasingly ideologically extreme The Texas Legislature has legalized gambling failedand the state has been running a budget surplus lately, meaning anti-gambling lawmakers are unlikely to drop their opposition on the grounds that legalized gambling is a valuable source of tax revenue.

But the ongoing normalization and growing popularity of gambling in the US is putting pressure on Texas and the other holdouts to join in, and lobbying efforts are sure to increase ahead of the state’s next legislative session, which begins in January.

This is where Cuban needs Adelson. Logically, a push led by a well-connected billionaire with real estate and gambling expertise, impeccable right-wing bona fides and a history of largesse toward the Republican Party has a better chance of convincing skeptical conservatives than an effort led by the unconventional Trump. -averse, Biden-backed star of Shark Tank.

“It’s a partnership,” Cuban told AP. “They’re not basketball people. I’m not real estate people. That’s why I did it. I could have gotten more money from someone else. I’ve known these guys for a long time. They are good at the things I am not good at.”

And since sports franchises are widely seen not as mere businesses, but as beloved community assets, a link with the Mavericks could be particularly useful for the casino magnates.

“I feel like just having a sports team provides credibility and legitimacy within the marketplace that the Adelsons might not have,” Shapiro says. “I could definitely see them being able to leverage the brand and the relationship the brand already has with the community to open the doors to opportunities that otherwise might not have existed.”