With Colorado legislators likely to consider online gambling legislation this session, the National Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling funded by billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has begun efforts to thwart the advancement of any proposals in the Highest State.
Adelson has displayed a penchant for writing op-ed pieces in major newspapers that warn of the dangers of online gambling. That mode of making his voice heard has continued in the Denver Post with a guest commentary written by former Denver mayor Wellington Webb entitled “Internet Gambling Will Kill Jobs in Colorado.”
The op-ed was published January 9 and lists Webb as a national co-chair of Adelson’s coalition. The article mentions the possibility that more than 27,000 well-paid jobs at Colorado’s land-based casinos will be in jeopardy if online gambling is legalized in the state and elsewhere throughout the U.S.
Webb also spouts many of the inaccuracies that Adelson has previously railed on about, such as the misguided notion that a majority of Americans are against Internet gambling and that children will be able to easily access gaming websites. A recent Reason-Rupe survey found that 2 out of 3 Americans favor online poker legislation and it is well known that Internet gambling sites have implemented reliable safeguards to prevent minors from logging on.
As stated by Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas at last month’s House subcommittee hearing that debated “The State of Online Gaming,” there has not been one single instance of under-aged gamblers gaining access to any of the legalized sites in Nevada, Delaware or New Jersey. However, casinos operated by the Las Vegas Sands Corp, which Adelson controls, have previously been cited for minors both drinking and gambling on the casino floor.
Industry officials and lawmakers in Colorado drafted an Internet poker bill during the last legislative session that failed to gain any traction. Although a constitutional amendment may be required in order for such a proposal to be enacted, there are indications that a new effort may be made this year.
Rep. Kevin Priola (R-Adams County) told the Denver Post last year that he and some of his colleagues wanted to “have Colorado as close to the starting line as we can possibly be” with regard to having legislation prepared “because as soon as the [online gambling] gates open, I think there are only going to be a few states that are going to have enough scale to make it work.”
Webb insists in his op-ed piece that “the poor and other vulnerable populations are at greater risk with easy access to online gambling sites.” Citing the fact that three states have already enacted forms of Internet poker and gambling and that others may also soon take a look, he advises his former constituency that “Colorado must not follow suit.”
The 72-year-old Webb was the mayor of Denver from 1991 – 2003. He is joined as co-chair on the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling by former New York Governor George Pataki and former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln.