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Sportingbet Founder Slams Adelson Comments

The founder of online gaming company Sportingbet has hit out at last week’s comments by Las Vegas Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson with regards to online gaming.

Mark Blandford criticised the sentiments made by Mr Adelson in a piece he wrote for the Forbes publication, in which he described the online gaming industry as being “fool’s gold”. He also called for it to be made illegal in the US and said it was a “societal train wreck waiting to happen.”

He also disputed any potential arguments that he, the owner of another of casinos and hotels in Las Vegas, Macau and Singapore, had any ulterior motive to lashing out at the industry. Adelson said that his businesses would not be any threat from an established US online gaming market, but other US casinos potentially would.

Mr Blandford, who founded the London-based Sportingbet in 1997, disagreed with those sentiments and said Mr Adelson seemed to have forgotten his previous attempted ventures into the online gaming realm. “[Adelson has] tried to look like a modern day King Canute while wiping the history of Venetian Interactive,” he said.

That comment was in relation to the fact Venetian Interactive, which is owned by Mr Adelson, was granted an online gaming licence by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission back in 2003. Despite this, the company has never launched an online gaming service but it does show the company was, at least at some point, highly interested in the industry.

Mr Blandford owned a land-based bookmaking operation in England for over a decade before deciding to become an online gaming operator. After nine years as Chairman and CEO of Sportingbet, he left day to day operations at the company in 2006 and since launched a venture capital firm Burlywood Capital.

A number of other figures in the online gaming industry have also criticised Mr Adelson comments since they were first aired. One of them has been Poker Players Alliance representative Rich Muny, who said the Las Vegas Sands Chairman and CEO was “wrong” about the ways online gaming affects the business operations of land-based gaming operations.

“Online poker is actually a great way for B&M [bricks and mortar] casinos to market their properties,” Mr Muny said. ““We saw a huge boom in online poker in the last decade that was nothing but beneficial to B&M casinos. Imagine how much more so it would be for them if they ran the sites.”

With Mr Adelson’s comments still fresh in the minds of a lot of online gaming figures, the debate over them will likely continue for some time to come.

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