Adelson takes on Internet gambling

November 18, 2013 9:24 am

For once, Sheldon Adelson is right.

The billionaire casino mogul opposes legalizing online gambling because of the danger to children, the poor, elderly and others who could be exploited by easy access to betting via the Internet. (Oh, and another unmentioned reason: Adelson wants his Las Vegas Sands casinos to remain one of the main places to exploit gamblers.)

But this time at least Adelson’s self interest is in line with smart public policy. (There’s a line I never thought I would write.) The Washington Post reports that Adelson is using his deep pockets and lobbying influence to get Congress to ban Internet gambling.

Three states are gearing up to allow Internet gambling and the federal government is considering getting in on the action. As a result, online betting is shaping up to be one of the heaviest lobbying battles in 2014. Most of the major casinos support Internet gambling, provided, of course, they operate the betting sites.

But Adelson is fighting the effort. He has begun hiring lobbyists and public relations experts in Washington and in state capitals to press his case, The Post said.

Adelson has begun hiring lobbyists and public relations experts in Washington and in state capitals nationwide to press his case in what is shaping up to be one of the most heavily lobbied debates of 2014. He plans to launch a advocacy group in January called the Coalition to Stop internet Gambling. (A possible subtitle: And to keep all the gambling money in casinos).

Adelson is correct that Internet gambling could be even more destructive than casinos. Customers will be able to gamble anywhere and anytime from their home or mobile phone. It will be especially difficult to prevent children and teens from gambling. The ease of access is expected to create even more gambling addicts.

So for now at least, welcome Mr. Adelson to the efforts to raise awareness about the dangers of more legalized gambling.

What does Sheldon Adelson want?

February 21, 2012 9:08 am

Forbes magazine has a cover story coming on Sheldson Adelson in which he says he may spend $100 million backing a candidate for president. Adelson defends his giving and says critics are “either jealous or professional critics.” The full version of the story will be available tomorrow.

Adelson’s main interest in the presidential race is unseating President Obama. He also wants a president who will be a hawk when it comes to defending Israel. That appears to be more important than a president who will support his gambling interests, though that is surely an issue. 

Meanwhile, in a separate piece, the billionaire casino mogul says he supports Rick Santorum’s views on gambling. Santorum, like Adelson, is opposed to Internet gambling. Better to have the gamblers come to Adelson’s casino in Las Vegas. Though Adelson also owns convenience casinos like the Sands in Bethlehem.

Tom Ridge & Louis Freeh: Gambling shills

February 17, 2012 11:30 am

It’s sad to watch former government officials turn into corporate mouthpieces. But at the very least they should disclose that they are hired guns.

Take the recent op-ed by Former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and former FBI head Louis Freeh that argues for a federal Internet gambling law. (The best these two former respected officials turned gambling flaks could do is get it published in the Washington Examiner?) Beyond their lame argument for legalizing Internet gambling, the piece fails to disclose that Ridge and Freeh were hired by Fair Play USA to lobby to legalize Internet gambling. See earlier post here.

Ridge and Freeh are correct that people can gamble illegally via the Internet. But expanding the market to the masses by legalizing Internet gambling poses real risks and consequences. The upshot would be a virtual casino in every home, mobile phone and dorm room. (Under their flawed logic, drugs and prostitution should also be legalized.)

Making it easier – and legal – for people to gamble, as well as market and advertise to them, will almost certainly lead to more problem gamblers. Because then the government would essentially be saying it is ok to gamble. Legalized Internet gambling will also attract younger and younger gamblers. Beyond the problem gamblers, Internet gambling will further extract wealth from families and individuals, while many waste their time and money gambling via their laptop or iPhone.

That’s what Ridge and Freeh are essentially pushing. Worse still, they failed to disclose that they are getting paid to do it.

Utah gets it on gambling

February 10, 2012 9:22 am

While many other states are rushing blindly over the gambling cliff, lawmakers in Utah are working to keep the insidious vice out of their state. 

Rep. Stephen Sandstrom, (R-Orem) introduced a bill to block Internet gambling. The state measure is designed to preempt and federal efforts to legalize Internet gambling. Sandstrom said the bill is also needed to keep any Indian tribes (and their private equity bankers from Wall Street) from trying to establish a gambling operation in the state.

Utah and Hawaii are the only two states without ANY form of legalized gambling. Utah, of course, is home to a large Mormon population. That religion wisely prohibits members from wasting their time and money gambling. ”I think that defines who we and what we are as a state,” Sandstrom said of Utah’s anti-gambling status. “I think that’s one reason we’re so productive.”

Indeed, Utah is known for its beauty and high quality of life. Of course, Hawaii’s quality of life is not too shabby either. The lack of gambling certainly contributes to both states’ excellent quality of life. Both states are examples for lawmakers around the country that seem addicted to gambling as a misguided way to solve their problems.

Internet gambling’s small payoff

January 17, 2012 1:49 pm

The next untapped frontier in gambling is the Internet. But as states rush get in the online game, studies show that the potential pot is not as big as expected, The New York Times reports.

The state of Iowa released a study that found legalizing online poker would generate between $3 million and $13 million a year. Supporters in California estimate it could generate between $100 million and $250 million – a small figure given the state’s $9.2 billion budget shortfall.

Of course, the revenue estimates do not factor in the social and economic costs of a further expansion of gambling. That would make the overall take even lower for states.

Some elected officials don’t care. Gov. Christie said he wants to make New Jersey the “epicenter” of the online gambling industry. In other words, Christie wants to make it easier for New Jersey residents to gamble away even more of their money. What a proud legacy that would be for Christie.

An Iowa lawmaker is even more disingenuous about his reasons for sponsoring a bill to legalize online poker. State Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from the Cedar Falls area, says the bill would protect residents.

“We are not doing this to expand our state budget,” Danielson said, apparently while maintaining a straight face. “Our purpose is to make sure every Iowan who wants to play poker has a fair game, has protections, and, if they win, is able to retain those earning in a fair and safe way.”

That’s right. Jeff Danielson is looking out for gamblers in Iowa. What a true public servant and American hero.

Justice Department buries gambling news

December 26, 2011 11:32 am

It’s clear to see the Justice Department isn’t proud of its decision to reverse its opposition to Internet gambling.

The department released a legal opinion that upends its opposition to Internet gambling on Friday while most of the country was busy getting ready for the holidays.

Even more amazing, the legal opinion was issued by its legal counsel in September but not made public until just before Christmas.

Media 101 says bury bad news around the holidays. That’s exactly what the Justice Department did with its wrongheaded decision to open the door for more gambling across the country. Look for states and others to move quickly to get in on the lucrative Internet gambling opportunities, which will lead to easier access and more problem gamblers.

Gambling interests trump opposition

November 17, 2011 1:15 am

Big Gambling has taken over the gambling debate, silencing most gambling critics. The policy fight these days is mostly taken up by competing gambling interests. That’s the takeaway from this story detailing the debate over legalizing Internet gambling in California.

Instead, of discussing the pros and cons of Internet gambling, the debate is about which gambling interests – casinos, racetrack, Indian gambling and state vs. federal governments - will get a piece of the pie. The feeling now is that legalizing Internet gambling is more a matter of when, not if.

Lost in the debate is how gambling is a bad public policy that preys on the most vulnerable and leads to an increase in a variety of social ills. The need of governments to raise revenue without raising taxes is prompting lawmakers to turn to gambling. Never mind that government can’t gamble its way out of financial trouble, just like individuals can’t.

The upshot is that gambling will march on, spreading across the country in different forms like a cancer. Legalizing Internet gambling could be the most devastating policy change. It will open the floodgates and enable everyone to gamble from home or their mobile phone, leading to even more social problems and leaving many more people even deeper in debt all in the name of a quick buck. Never mind that people can and do gamble illegally on the Internet. Once the government makes it legal, it will legitimize a bad idea, which will spur many more people to give it a try.