Sheldon Adelson has not only been adamant about his anti-online gambling campaign, he's now beefed up the offense for a public campaign that shows online gambling as being "a danger to children, the poor, and others who could be exploited by easy access to Internet betting" but New Jersey State Sen. Raymond Lesniak, the biggest proponent of Internet gambling in the Garden State, isn't going to roll over and play dead to allow Adelson to destroy everything he's worked so hard to bring to fruition in the Garden State. Lesniak has written to relevant parties in New Jersey to inform them of Adelson's intentions.
"I'm going to stop him in his tracks," Lesniak said of Adelson. "Internet gaming is a lifeline for our Atlantic City casinos, and there's no chance he's going to stop us once we get started. He's a powerful, well-funded guy, but that never scared me away from any fight. I have a pretty good track record on my side, and more importantly have the economy of the state of New Jersey on my side. We have thousands of jobs at stake."
Adelson is the CEO of Las Vegas Sands, a billionaire, and a casino mogul that is preparing to launch a public campaign against online gambling according to a report by the Washington Post. Adelson's campaign has begun — he's hiring lobbyists that will seek a federal ban and oppose state efforts in bringing Internet gambling to the public. Lesniak says former New York Gov. George Pataki is one of the lobbyists hired by Adelson.
"George Pataki supported lotteries," Lesniak told PokerNews.com. "He should be ashamed of himself."
It's time for the poker community to rally too, this is about freedom.
Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas said Adelson has cemented his legacy as Internet gaming's biggest opponent. Everyone that has an interest in Internet gaming, as a player or a casino hoping to bring virtual poker to the masses had the hope that Adelson would be convinced to realize the difference between gambling and Internet poker — like former Sen. Jon Kyl before him.
"He's retreading a whole lot of old arguments that may have made sense 10 years ago but don't make sense today, particularly from the standpoint that regulation has gotten so much stronger," Pappas told PokerNews.com. "But also how farther down the road we are as a country for legalizing Internet gambling. We already have three states that have authorized it and another dozen states looking into it. We already have regulated Internet gaming in other forms like lotteries and horse racing. He's well behind the times in his opposition. While he's well-funded, he'll have a hard time turning the tide here in the U.S."
Lesniak believes that Adelson will find a legislator that will introduce a federal bill that attempts to ban Internet gambling and poker in 2014. Along with that belief, Lesniak feels that the New Jersey Senators would block any attempts to move such a bill.
"I'm sure there's going to be somebody who introduces it, but thousands of bills get introduced in Congress every year and go nowhere, and I expect this to go nowhere as well," Lesniak said. "He's fighting against the future. The future of economic activity, whether gaming or anything else, is over the Internet, and you cannot shut down the Internet. It's an unwinnable fight."
Pappas believes that having someone introduce an online gaming prohibition bill just because of Adelson's stance against Internet gambling would be a blow to the credibility of Congress.
"I think, if legislation is introduced, then that would demonstrate everything the public hates about Congress, that they're willing to take up an issue on behalf of a wealthy individual, disregarding the interests of millions of Americans and dozens of states who want the freedom to play and offer online poker," Pappas said. "It would really undermine Congress as a body if they were to push this, because really it's just Sheldon Adelson who is pushing this. No one else is calling for a ban on Internet gambling."
Adelson may not be able to push a ban on Internet gambling through federal legislation in 2014 but he may be able to lodge a negative impact on legal online poker in the United States. He could attack at state levels and spread enough propaganda to influence the average person that doesn't understand Internet poker and all of the regulation standards and precautions that are being put into play to keep it safe and secure. There are states that are on the fence regarding online poker and Adelson's push could impact movement from states that could potentially partner to run their online gambling operations through Atlantic City. Given enough time, since his funds appear to be endless, he could damage public opinion about online poker.
“An unlimited ad budget can run lots of negative ads about Internet gambling,” Pappas said. “Average Americans who know nothing about Internet gambling could very well be influenced by an ad campaign put together by Adelson. We have to be worried that he can influence enough Americans that all the work we've done up until now could be nullified.”
Adelson's claim is that he is MORALLY opposed to Internet gambling. He dubs it a danger to society, particularly the poor and children. How did Adelson build his fortune? Through casinos. His stance is that online gambling is easy to access but apparently having to get dressed and drive to one of his casinos to shove your spare cash down the throat of a slot machine or put it on the roll of the dice is A-OK.
To add a little foam to the brew that Adelson is stewing up, keep in mind that back in June forbes.com ran an article titled Sheldon Adelson: Online Gambling is Fool's Gold. It's worth taking the time to read simply because most of the 'thinking' world believes that the financial angle is the only reason Adelson is so adamant about Internet gaming. He claims to have studies that indicate online gaming will hurt brick-and-mortar casinos. If that is the case, why are his competitors willing to participate in Internet gaming in Nevada and New Jersey?
Pappas points out that Adelson has online wagering available now through the sports book at the Venetian which is one of Adelson's properties. The Venetian has a mobile app that allows sports bettors to place bets anywhere in Nevada.
"We need to remind people that Adelson may have specific business interests at heart, not the interests of poor children like he claims," Pappas said. "He's always mentioned not only that he is opposed to this morally, but that it would be a cannibalization of brick-and-mortar properties. I think everyone can read between the lines of what he's saying, that this is more a business concern for him than it is a moral one."
Lesniak said that Internet gaming is by-and-large a middle class activity. If Adelson is concerned about poor people, he should go after lotteries or put the money he is planning on using to fight Internet gambling into helping the poor and producing jobs for people. “If he had a moral fiber in his body, that's what he'd be doing.”
Adelson's properties include the Palazzo and the Venetian in Las Vegas, and casinos in Macau and Singapore.
Pappas has input from some individual poker players who say they will not play at Adelson's properties again. Although Pappas supports the sentiment, he said the PPA won't attempt to organize a boycott of Adelson casinos.
"I think players should shop with their feet and make decisions based on the positions Adelson holds, but I don't think an organized boycott is the right approach," Pappas said. “It's better to organize players to contact legislators to make sure Adelson's wishes don't come true."
Image courtesy of media.northjersey.com.