For months now, we’ve been hearing about the supposed evils of online gaming from Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson. But finally, the Poker Players Alliance got a proper stage to refute the wild claims that Adelson has been making.
Despite a snow storm in Washington D.C., an online gaming hearing took place on Capitol Hill in the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. The big item on the agenda involved discussing the merits of legalizing online gaming in other parts of the United States. Essentially, this set up a debate between the following two sides:
Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas, and American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman
Las Vegas Sands VP of government relations Andrew Abboud, Chapman University law professor Kurt Eggert, University of Massachusetts Amherst professor Rachel Volberg, andStop Predatory Gambling national director Les Bernal.
Abboud was the biggest opposition to poker here because he was representing Adelson, and Congress members have already heard from SPG and the academics. Abboud’s main point was that Congress needs to reinterpret the Wire Act of 1961, which prohibits certain types of betting in the US. He argued that online gaming should be included under the Wire Act.
He also used this hearing as a chance to claim that online poker sites don’t have enough regulations to prevent underage gambling. On the other hand, Abboud said that land-based casinos are “highly controlled environments” where security cameras and staff members closely watch visitors. One more point that Adelson’s lackey made was how Europe shouldn’t be looked at as a model for legalizing internet gaming. After all, they have fewer land-based casinos and don’t need to worry as much about jeopardizing brick-and-mortar casino jobs.
Pappas was certainly not phased by what Abboud had to say. He quickly went to work by pointing out how there hasn’t been a single underage player reported on Nevada’s poker sites since they opened last April. He also stated that revenues in the UK’s brick-and-mortar casino industry have actually increased ever since they began regulating online gaming. Pappas finished by offering this final blow to Abboud:
I could walk into the Venetian tomorrow with a thousand dollars in my pocket, play roulette, play craps, play poker, walk out and not a single person noticed I was in the casino and lost a thousand dollars. Online, that is impossible. They know every moment you’re on the site, they know every game you’re playing. Ever wager you’re making, every win you’re making, every loss you’re making, it’s tracked and recorded in real time, and regulators recognize that wealth of data is gold in terms of properly regulating it and ensuring that it’s not abused.
Obviously this lone debate isn’t going to suddenly push the US into legalizing online poker on a federal level. But it’s certainly a big step in the right direction for proponents of legalized online gaming. The hearing gave the PPA and other online poker proponents an opportunity to poke holes in the lies that Adelson is spreading and tout the benefits of legal gaming. Unfortunately, Adelson won’t go away any time soon, but he also won’t go unchecked in his war against internet gaming.