Poker News

As reported here on Poker News Daily, Las Vegas Sands Chief Executive Officer Sheldon Adelson has all but declared war on the drive for federal online regulation of the online gaming and poker industry in the United States. Through the creation of his advocacy and lobbying group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, Adelson is now forcing the rest of the gaming world to take sides over the issue.

After a blistering editorial from USA Today last week that found agreement with Adelson, Bloomberg.com responded Monday on the other side of the table. In an editorial entitled, “U. S. Should Go All In With Online Gambling,” the Bloomberg editors sided with pro-online gaming forces in saying, “Online gambling, like everything else on the Internet, is inherently interstate commerce. That makes federal regulation more sensible.”

Citing the three states that have already passed online gaming legislation (Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey), Bloomberg starts by looking at the numbers related to online gaming. “By 2023…annual online gambling revenue could reach $23 billion nationwide,” the editors write before pointing out why the “state-by-state” approach would not work. “Joining forces in regional gambling blocks, as some states are considering, would expand the (online poker) market but it could quickly become a mess if they all have conflicting regulations.”

The Bloomberg editors point out the two bills regarding legislating online gaming (currently stalled) in Washington, DC, as being “on the right track.” “Combined, they offer the outline of rational federal approach,” the editors state. They also hammer on the opposition, poking holes in some of their arguments.

“Problem gambling and other harmful side effects will probably be easier to prevent online,” the editors theorize about age restrictions and problem gamblers. “If (gamblers) are required to open an account and have their identities verified, imposing loss limits should be fairly easy. Online operators could also…have prohibitions against underage gambling.” These technologies aren’t “foolproof,” the editors admit, “but neither are real-life casinos.”

“People clearly like gambling,” the Bloomberg editors summarize. “Letting them do so where they want would make them happy. Regulating it properly would keep them safe. And taxing it all will make lawmakers smile. A decent trifecta, you might say.”

The political columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Steve Sebelius, takes an opposing viewpoint to the Bloomberg editors. Writing in yesterday’s LVRJ, Sebelius opines, “Of all the things that have been said recently about…Adelson’s crusade against online gambling, there’s one missing: He’s right.”

Sebelius believes that, even though the age verification procedures online might be technologically advanced, “there’s no way to fully prevent underage gamblers from wagering.” Sebelius points out that live casino staffs are professionally trained to identify these people and prevent them from playing in the casinos. He also believes that problem gamblers “will have a much harder time fighting their addiction when every tablet, smartphone and computer in their home suddenly becomes a virtual casino.”

Sebelius does admit, however, that Adelson’s approach isn’t going to work. “It didn’t work with alcohol, it hasn’t worked with drugs and it didn’t work with online gambling in the years when federal officials considered it illegal,” Sebelius writes. While he agrees with what Adelson says, Sebelius states, “That doesn’t necessarily mean we should follow his advice; freedom in society means freedom to make bad choices.”

Standing in the middle, like Azrael in the movie Dogma, is Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn, who admitted in an interview with the Review-Journal’s Chris Sieroty that he was “neither a proponent nor opponent” of online gaming regulation. “I’m not sure as I stand here where online gaming is going,” Wynn said to Sieroty. “Within the state of New Jersey it’s legal. Its status in America is much in doubt.”

Wynn compared Adelson’s efforts to outlaw online gaming to the past efforts by the government to ban alcohol. “Playing poker is America and outlawing poker is like the Volstead Act where they outlawed beer,” Wynn said. As to his own companies involvement in the online gaming arena (Wynn Resorts has teamed with 888 Holdings for one of Caesars Entertainment’s licenses in New Jersey), Wynn says that his company will “stay in the game” but not choose a side in the ongoing fight.

The battle lines are being drawn and the armies are heading to their respective camps (or, like Wynn, are waiting to see which side wins). There is a gaming war on the horizon, with the stakes high for both sides.

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