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The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you are an online poker advocate there was certainly one debate you likely had circled on the CPAC calendar: A proposed debate between Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas and someone representing the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling/Sheldon Adelson, first rumored to be Andy Abboud.

But when 2:10 PM on Thursday rolled around, and people filed into Potomac 6 room for the “Full House: Who’s Got the Winning Hand?” debate they discovered this would be a monologue instead of a dialogue. John Pappas was there, but Andy Abboud was missing. Nor could any other CSIG representative be found.

It appears Sheldon Adelson is taking the Sarah Palin approach when it comes to discussing online gambling: Friendly interviews only! Perhaps the thinking is by sticking to friendly interviews his talking heads can avoid the tough questions like, “What do you read?” and “If Internet gambling is so bad for society why hasn’t the sky fallen in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey yet?”


The PPA was quick to jump on no-show, releasing the following statement:

“I guess when the rubber meets the road, prohibition supporters realize they can’t backup their fear-mongering PR campaign with actual facts,” said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide. “I was looking forward to an open and fair debate on the future of online gaming, and not just because the facts are on our side. Before Congress votes on any legislation that would impose a broad prohibition, like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), I think American voters deserve to hear both sides clearly articulate how such a ban impacts consumers, states and the economy.

“The fact that the primary RAWA supporters refused to join this debate, after significant effort by the organizers, tells me that they want their bill rubberstamped instead of openly debated on the merits – a basic tenet of democracy.”


If you can’t make your case at CPAC…

… Don’t expect to see CSIG representatives at gaming conferences this year.

One would think Adelson (one of, if not the Republican party’s biggest political donor) would like to make the conservative argument for an online gambling ban at what is considered THE bastion of conservatism.

He missed a chance to explain to what would have been nodding-head social conservatives why he is morally opposed to online gambling.

He had a chance to explain to skeptical libertarians how RAWA was not government overreach or a violation of the 10th Amendment.

But he didn’t show. And it’s probably best that he didn’t.

Adeslon’s entire argument against online gambling is nothing more than a sleight of hand card trick, and despite paying good money to have it executed, his representatives are more akin to a $100 birthday party magician than David Copperfield.

Social conservatives would certainly like what they heard, until they realize the words are being delivered by someone representing someone who has made billions of dollars in the gambling business whose motives are not at all in lock-step with theirs.

Libertarians would certainly hear out Team Adelson’s reasoning for RAWA, but virtually every argument they have made thus far has been proven to be somewhere between a misrepresentation of the facts and a blatant lie.

Oh no, an actual debate is the worst case scenario for Team Adelson.


What should we expect going forward?

Don’t expect fair or balanced debate. The CPAC no-show is a clear indication that Adelson and company are aware they can’t win this fight through facts and debate.

Expect to see more of this; RAWA advocates going unchallenged:

And less of this; RAWA advocates being called out for their blatant hypocrisy:

When the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations holds a hearing on RAWA on March 5th I fully expect Jason Chaffetz and the committee’s other RAWA supporters to stack the deck.

However, if this is what comes to pass, it will only reinforce what has been one of the main arguments against RAWA over the past year: The bill is nothing more than a favor to Sheldon Adelson.

As much as he would like to make this fight a moralistic one, in the mainstream media (which has covered this quite extensively because of Adelson’s involvement) RAWA is framed as blatant quid pro quo politics.

Should Chaffetz assemble a list of online gaming naysayers without allowing advocates of legalization and regulation to have their say, and should CSIG representatives continue to go unchallenged on shows like Huckabee, RAWA will continue to look more and more like the farce it is.

If you tell everyone how to perform the trick beforehand, it doesn’t matter how good, or how much money the magician spent on it. And that’s what RAWA is, a trick. Smoke and mirrors.

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[Image at top of page By Péndulo Studios (developer) ΛΦΠ (creation & upload) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.]

Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.