Table Talk: US Internet Gaming Talks Get Serious

Online Gaming

Everyone in the United States Internet gaming debate needs to have a drink and calm down.

As most know by now, Nevada offers legal online poker, and Delaware and New Jersey legalized online casinos and poker rooms. More states are considering getting into the business as well. Land-based casinos can benefit from the attention to their brands, the market may grow with interstate compacts in the future, and most states are in dire need of revenue and new jobs. Internet gaming offers these benefits and more.

Pennsylvania and California have been considering entering the market, and others like Iowa, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Colorado are among those who have entertained the idea in one way or another. Each state has supporters and detractors, each with mostly reasonable points to be made.

The US government has also seen numerous pro-Internet gambling bills enter various committees and become the subject of hearings in Congress. The reality of a federally regulated online gaming or Internet poker industry is not in the near future by the accounts of most analysts, but the debate is there. It’s on the back burner, but it’s at least on the stove.

And into the party comes Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson. He not only crashed the party but decided to pee in everyone’s drinks.

Adelson certainly has a right to his opinions regarding Internet gambling. Though most of his opposition to the market is beyond hypocritical due to his own casinos, like the Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas, offering virtual gaming from hotel rooms, he can throw his money around to any causes he chooses. He has supported very conservative political candidates in the past and makes no secret that he funds lobbying groups that oppose online gambling.

One of Adelson’s advisors, Andy Abboud, recently spoke to a Congressional committee on Internet gaming, but his stance was so hypocritical that even several members of Congress called him out on his positions that directly contradict what Adelson stands for. For example, Rep. Joe Barton and Rep. Jan Schakowsky both pointed out that the Venetian in Las Vegas markets the use of mobile devices for making wagers.

Hypocrisy is one problem. But creating outright lies is another.

The lobbying group is the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. On its website, many of the points presented as “facts” are simply not true.

Threats to the Public Interest: States have established rigorous licensing and regulatory regimes for land-based casinos, which in turn have implemented and carried out effective policies to promote responsible gambling, bar participation by minors, and assure full compliance with all laws ranging from gambling controls to money laundering to tax payments. Such protections of the public interest are not fully available with Internet gambling.

Those protections are truer with Internet gambling than at land-based casinos due to the many verification options that online gaming sites are required to use.

Criminal Enterprises: Gambling has been a prime target for criminal syndicates to launder money and use for other nefarious purposes. The unregulated Internet environment will attract national and international crime syndicates seeking to increase cash flows and hide capital.

Land-based casinos have been notorious for criminal activities for decades, but to say that the Internet will attract the same elements is a false statement. In addition, saying that it will be an “unregulated” environment is the exact opposite of what state gaming laws are set up to be.

Destroys Jobs: More than 330,000 Americans work in the casino industry. Hundreds of thousands more work in industries which supported by licensed casinos. Internet gambling, especially if it includes a full assortment of casino style games, will reduce participation at brick and mortar casinos, with a commensurate impact on jobs in lodging, restaurant, entertainment and retail industries which rely on brick-and-mortar casinos.

Not one of the three states with legalized online games has reported any loss of jobs in the land-based casinos. If anything, New Jersey casinos are reporting that the Internet games are targeting a new audience and revitalizing an interest in the casino games.

International Terrorism: International terrorist organizations are constantly seeking the means to move and hide money to facilitate their ultimate goal of purchasing and transferring chemical and other weapons of mass destruction. A Defense Department study concluded that Internet warfare will be an enormous threat to national security in coming years. Internet gaming will be a perfect conduit for terrorists to move funds for wide scale illegal and hostile purposes.

The connection of online poker and casino games to terrorism is a red herring. The use of the word “terrorism” is meant to instill fear into the minds of people who know little to nothing about Internet gaming. The regulatory controls on Internet gaming would, in fact, make it a very unlikely conduit for terrorists, especially on a wide scale.

The latest words from Abboud came when he was discussing the issue and Adelson’s stance to Jon Ralston, political reporter in Nevada.

Abboud told Ralston that there will be an avid campaign in any states considering legalizing online gaming. “We are going to make it ‘the plague,'” he said.

The plague.

There’s a rational argument.

Adelson and his team seem to be reaching into the bottom of the barrel to stop something that is already well on its way to mainstream acceptance.

Of course, lobbying groups like the American Gaming Association and Poker Players Alliance are countering Adelson’s arguments like true champs and trying to stay on the front end of the fight. I believe they are doing a stellar job, especially since they began working together in some respects to battle the likes – and seemingly endless bankroll – of Adelson.

For now, the world can watch as Adelson tries to make Internet gaming into a sideshow, when it really is a pastime enjoyed by more than a few million people around the world.