BUSINESS

Gaming execs lobby spotlight-seeking Washington pols on internet gambling

TAGs: AGA, American Gaming Association, dina titus, Kate Upton

aga-washington-fly-inOn Wednesday, the American Gaming Association (AGA) hosted its annual Gaming Industry Washington Fly-In event, in which high-ranking gaming execs hob-nob with federal politicians in a day-long effort to advance policies favorable to the industry. Among the notables gripping and grinning through this year’s junket were MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren, Caesars Entertainment CEO Gary Loveman, International Game Technology CEO Patti Hart, Penn National Gaming president Tim Wilmott and Aristocrat Leisure CEO Jamie Odell.

According to AGA president Geoff Freeman, among the message points these execs planned to push were the need for federal regulation of online poker coupled with an explicit ban on online “casino games of chance,” a position the AGA has held for a couple years now. The big casino companies don’t mind opening up the online sphere to poker, but clearly don’t want to see anything threaten the number of bums in seats at the acres of slot machines in their brick-and-mortar venues.

The AGA’s political drive-by was also determined to further besmirch the reputations of so-called “bad actors’, i.e. companies that had the idea of serving the US market before the US casino companies decided they wanted in on the online action themselves. Earlier this year, the AGA launched an unprecedented campaign to keep PokerStars out of New Jersey’s online gambling market, while ignoring misdeeds by other companies and individuals that have since struck deals with some AGA members.

Noticeably absent from this executive confab was Las Vegas Sands’ boss Sheldon Adelson. This could be explained due to the fact that Adelson’s scathing opinion on the merits of any form of internet gambling are well established, but it’s equally true that Adelson doesn’t require any outside group to help him get the ear of Washington pols. Given his status as the Republican party’s single biggest campaign contributor, it’s safe to say that Adelson could undo the AGA’s group lobbying effort with a single phone call.

SHOCKER: HOUSE WANTS SHARE OF MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
The recent Senate hearing on internet gambling provided plenty of opportunity for the nation’s elected representatives to burnish their ‘think of the children’ credentials by routinely equating online gambling with terrorist money laundering activities. Indeed, even senators who couldn’t be arsed to attend the hearing were keen to hop on the anti-terror bandwagon, like Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.VA), who fought his way to the front of a recent media scrum to warn that online gambling could “affect our national security” by making it “easier for criminals and terrorists to launder money.”

kate-uptonRockefeller warned of the “consequences of allowing a risky and often addictive form of entertainment to be available on such a ubiquitous platform.” Rockefeller said individual states had done a decent job regulating brick-and-mortar gaming, but “the internet does not recognize borders or state jurisdictions.” Rockefeller apparently believes the internet does recognize the borders of the United States, or at least has difficulty swimming across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, or sled-dogging across the 49th parallel separating the US from Canada (where sleeper cells tend to freeze to death).

Feeling left out by all this Senate hubbub, Rep. Dina Titus (R-NV) wants the House of Representatives’ Committee on Energy and Commerce to hold its own hearing on internet gambling. However, being from Nevada, Titus appears more concerned with protecting consumers from ‘bad actors’ than protecting them from Al Qaeda. Like the AGA, she warns about the apocalyptic ramifications of “a confusing and complex patchwork of agreements and regulations.” Well, honestly… Who could feel threatened by terrorists bearing weapons of mass destruction when inferior state laws are on the books?

In case you weren’t aware, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee is Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI), whose niece is none other than über-babe Kate Upton (pictured right). So kindly accept this utterly gratuitous shot of Ms. Upton as your reward for reading this lengthy recitation of a collection of facts that really don’t matter a whole lot, since the state-level gambling ship has long since sailed, leaving all talk of federal online poker regulation as pointless as the parka Ms. Upton’s wearing in that 72° photo studio.

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