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Motley Alliance of Diversified Interests Mortally Wounded Online Poker’s Chances in US

Written by:
Jagajeet Chiba
Published on:
Feb/09/2011
online poker

Poker News Daily has come out swinging in regard to what went wrong with online poker’s legalization and regulation in the United States gone awry in what appeared to be a promising end to 2011. 

The site points out the irony that the usual culprits – Focus on Family, sports leagues and the religious right – remained quietly on the sidelines as passage of new legislation almost appeared imminent. 

Instead, what mortally wounded the online poker momentum was a motley alliance of diversified interests that rarely agree on any issue.  This movement included several powerful elected officials from both parties.  It included businesses determined to barricade themselves against potential competition.  It also included various state and local officials around the country intent on protecting the biggest sucker game of all – state lotteries.

Indeed, the most flabbergasting incidence was strong opposition from powerful individuals and companies within the gambling industry, including many people who prosper by serving the needs and desires of average poker players.  Protecting one’s turf might be justifiable in a debate about public policy.  But the deeds of some within the gambling industry were an atrocious exhibition of hypocrisy

Specifically, Poker News Daily points to the Commerce Casino’s ownership coming out strongly against legalized online poker.  Tom Malkasian’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee last year reads like a textbook case of hypocrisy.  Here are the cliff notes of his testimony: “Keep the competition out.  Deny poker players their rights.  Protect my business so I can continue making a fortune.”

But other culprits are called out.  Namely the Las Vegas casino industry:

Much of the casino industry’s behavior has been reprehensible.  Until recently, the American Gaming Association (AGA), the industry’s biggest voice in Washington, was outspokenly opposed to online gambling.  Only after big companies including Harrah’s (now Caesars Entertainment) and MGM Mirage saw their land-based revenues decline and began to understand the enormous upside of developing online markets did the industry partially reverse itself.  But this change of heart came way too late.

Big casino companies have essentially abdicated the market to offshore entities and are now in a poor position to offer leadership on such an important issue, having arrived so late to the discussion.  Even worse, some casino executives, most notably Sheldon Adelson, Chairman and CEO of Sands Corp. (Venetian), remains steadfastly against online poker.

It’s despicable that these business leaders who argue so strongly for free enterprise, open markets, competition, and encourage gaming at their own casinos would take such a hypocritical position.

But Nolan Dalla of Poker News Daily also questions the true motive of major online poker rooms lobbying efforts.

It’s hard to imagine a more badly managed public relations campaign and misguided lobbying effort than what has taken place in Washington over the past four years.  The effort has been so poorly run that one must seriously ask – is the movement to legalize online poker just a sham?

Those working behind the scenes have “failed miserably”, Dalla points out.

“The online poker industry has done an appalling job at PR”.

He also notes that “Pro-online poker forces have hired top Washington lobbying firms and spent millions of dollars.  However, passage of an online poker bill is no closer now than it was when UIGEA was passed more than four years ago.  Some personnel and strategic changes are long overdue.”

- Jagajeet Chiba, Gambling911.com

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