ABC News' Arlette Saenz and Michael Falcone report:
WINTER PARK, Fla. - Though Sheldon Adelson is largely bankrolling the effort to make Newt Gingrich the Republican Party's presidential nominee, Gingrich says the only contact he has with the casino magnate these days is through newspaper "articles."
Gingrich sought to keep Adelson at arm's length on Saturday when the ties between the two men found their way into one of the former House speaker's campaign events in Florida.A panelist at the Orange County Liberty Counsel Forum asked the candidate to clarify his stance on casinos and gambling.
"Let me say upfront, at the risk of offending some of my friends who have been very helpful, I worry not just about casino gambling. I worry about lotteries. I worry about the degree to which the poor are the most likely to end up spending a large percent of their income gambling in the false hope that they can mathematically beat the system," Gingrich said.
It was clear that one of the "friends" Gingrich was referring to was Adelson, who has poured millions of dollars into a pro-Gingrich super PAC, along with his wife, Miriam, who pledged another $5 million within the last week.
But Gingrich, who is legally forbidden from coordinating with the PAC, Winning Our Future, told an audience at a Baptist church in Winter Park, Fla. that he's been keeping up with Adelson's generosity in the news media.
"Now I have read articles. I don't know anything technically," said Gingrich. "I haven't been briefed because it's illegal, but I've read articles and Sheldon Adelson has clearly, according to the articles, has been very generous."
Gingrich attributed Adelson's largesse towards his presidential bid to their mutual "passion" for Israel and staving off the threat from Iran.
"Sheldon has said, to offset by the way the Goldman Sachs, the big banks and everybody who's been helping my opponent, he's stepped in and said look, I really want somebody to be there who understands foreign policy," said Gingrich.
Notably, the question that elicited the response from Gingrich came from John Stemberger, the president of the Florida Family Policy Council, who formerly backed Rick Perry but switched his support to Rick Santorum over a week ago. In his question, Stemberger pointed out that "casino heads" have donated millions of dollars to super PACS and referenced "our good friend, Rick Tyler," the former Gingrich campaign advisor who now heads the pro-Gingrich super PAC.