MODQs – Will Anyone Listen to Adelson?

MODQs - Will anyone listen to Adelson?The process to continue online gambling regulation across America was moving as smoothly as it has ever been – slowly, but smoothly. That was until one of the richest men in the world decided that he was going to speak out against it.

This week the Washington Post reported that Sheldon Adelson was gearing up for a major assault on the regulated iGaming movement by bringing in lobbyists to campaign against it. Adelson’s major donor status has been widely reported and while the voice of almost anyone else speaking out against regulated US iGaming at this late stage might have been ignored, his voice is one that has rarely gone unnoticed.

In deciding to create the imaginatively named Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, Adelson has put down a real statement of intent and while those within the industry aren’t going to agree with it, they can’t ignore it.

That’s why this article isn’t about his argument – because if it was picking apart the hypocrisy and unfounded assumptions in his argument would require it to be at least doubled in length.

Even taking the rose-tinted glasses off, while it’s admirable that Adelson has now become the most moral of men, it’s tricky to see how his opposition to online gambling is anything more than the protection of his own assets. The fact that he is one of the few land-based casino owners to believe that these assets are at risk from online gambling is also irrelevant at this point.

A more practical consideration is to see whether Adelson’s rejuvenated efforts to stop the regulation of online gambling will gain any traction. For most the idea that it would still be possible to stop the regulation of online gambling isn’t even worth considering. But Adelson’s status as one of the largest political donors and his seemingly endless bank balance means that his words do warrant some attention. So bearing this in mind, will he be able to make people listen?

Industry Opinion 

The easy response to this latest drive by Adelson is to say that it’s simply an effort to protect his own income from the lucrative land-based casino empire that he presides over. So that’s what most people have done.

That’s a pretty cynical view and with the WP quoting Andy Abboud, one of Adelson’s top advisors as saying: “In my 15 years of working with him, I don’t think I have ever seen him this passionate about any issue,” you would hope that it isn’t just the case. On the other hand, he might be so passionate about it because there’s never been a “threat” to land-based casinos like online gambling.

Online Poker Report’s Chris Grove, who does a fantastic job in summarising the state of New Jersey’s regulatory status as well as the progress in other states, approached the announcement from a different but equally cynical approach. He tweeted not long after the new broke saying: “Regulated online gambling in the US is inevitable. Adelson’s “new” initiative just ensures lobbyists will siphon more $ out of it.”

Rich Muny of the Poker Players Alliance agrees that while many politicians will be hold the same viewpoint as described above, Adelson will be able to attract supporters. He adds: “He [Adelson] is willing to finance the effort, and history shows him to be a tenacious opponent.”

While remaining confident that regulated online gambling will continue to move forward, Muny is wary of the impact that this campaign might have.

“Whenever pro-online poker legislation is introduced, he will be lobbying against it,” he explains.

“He will be providing talking points, advertising, and media relations. It will make a difference, so we all have to take this seriously. We can win and I am confident that we will, but we all need to take this threat seriously.”

Political Opinion 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, people who work in and around Washington were very hesitant in being quoted speaking about the potential influence that Adelson holds. It’s almost like his incredible amounts of money and power may have put them off.

Some commentators in US media have been pretty damming in their appraisal of this campaign. It has been described as the most open form of bribery and blatant corruption. Given these views, and the platform upon which they’ve been announced means they are likely to be widespread, any conscientious politician will surely think twice before bending to the will of Adelson.

Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Washington Bureau chief Steve Tetreault reported on Twitter that when asked about Adelson’s campaign Senator Harry Reid simply shook his head. Whether that was in dismay or a desire to not answer the question is unclear but it’s not hard to believe that it could be either.

Meanwhile one of the most influential lobbyists in New Jersey’s regulation Joe Brennan Jr expressed his views on Twitter by saying: “If a casino owner, investigated for bribing foreign officials, started a public morals campaign, would you listen to him?”

Speaking in September, Brennan Jr suggested that Steve Wynn provides a suitable counterweight to Adelson and he appears to be in support of iGaming judging by his bid for a Philadelphia license.

With New Jersey being an obvious target for Adelson given that it’s the most significant regulation state, Brennan Jr explained that Adelson certainly won’t have much support there.

He added: “[Chris] Christie has zero incentive to help Adelson out with his business because he’s taking business away from New Jersey businesses right now. Governor Christie does not need Adelson’s money to run for president.”

Equally encouraging is the support that is supposedly due to be announced by New Jersey Senator Raymond Lesniak. With an announcement due on Thursday, Lesniak is going to announce his plans to fight the campaign being set up by Adelson. In this case it appears that at least one politician will be listening to Adelson but certainly won’t be agreeing with him.

Given the financial clout that Adelson holds you could never accuse his efforts of being too little too late – but the lateness of this new drive means that the size of it becomes irrelevant.