Yesterday’s Senate subcommittee hearing had less fireworks than anticipated, but Sheldon Adelson’s anti-online gambling stance managed to be labeled as “hypocritical” by two lawmakers.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) actually used the word when speaking to Adelson’s mouthpiece, Andrew Abboud, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation Vice President of Government Relations and Community Development. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) didn’t use the term specifically, but inferred as much after poking holes in Abboud’s testimony.
That testimony took place before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade and was available via webcast at the government website and on C-Span for those who preferred watching on television. “The State of Online Gaming” was the hearing’s title, with subtitles along the lines of the “Internet Poker Freedom Act” as introduced by Barton in July and the “current regulatory landscape” that finds individual states enacting online gambling legislation due to the DoJ’s reinterpretation of the 1961 Wire Act in 2011.
Abboud, in denouncing the legalization of Internet gambling at the behest of Adelson, held up a Smartphone and said that regulation would turn “every [mobile] device into a casino” and that such a scenario “is going too far” with regard to the proliferation of gambling. He further added that “simply because we can [legislate online gambling] doesn’t mean we should.”
Schakowsky and Barton both pointed out that the Venetian, a Las Vegas Sands’ property, marketed the use of mobile devices for making wagers. They mildly attacked Abboud’s testimony in which he called for any talk of online gambling legislation to cease and for the Wire Act’s previous interpretation to be reinstated.
Also given five minutes each to testify were Les Bernal, the National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling; Rachel Volberg, an associate professor at the University of Massachusetts and a recognized authority on problem gambling; Kurt Eggert, a gambling law professor at Chapman University; Geoff Freeman, American Gaming Association (AGA) president and CEO; and John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA).
Bernal is against all forms of gambling whether in a casino or online and he offered statistics that show that problem gamblers account for 40% to 60% of all gambling revenue. Volberg rightly called for more money to be spent on researching and combating addictive gambling. Eggert firmly dislikes bots and believes that online poker players and gamblers should have a wealth of information available such as casino advantage percentages and ratings of poker players based on skill levels in order to make more informed wagering decisions.
Freeman and Pappas were both well-prepared and highly effective in providing reasons why online poker should be legalized. Freeman made it clear that “online gaming is here to stay” and that “the demand [for Internet wagering] is extraordinary and not going away.” Frank Fahrenkopf’s successor correctly pointed out that many worldwide jurisdictions have effectively embraced and regulated online gambling.
Pappas spoke along those same lines, citing the success of regulated Internet gambling in Europe for more than a decade. He stressed that the U.S. can achieve the same results. Pappas also mentioned that underaged online gambling has not been reported in any of the states that have launched legalized Internet wagering thus far. The PPA honcho added testimony backing Barton’s HR 2666 as a bill high on consumer protections.
Subcommittee members are preparing additional written questions for the witnesses and will review the answers received. It is the hope of online poker players that further hearings are scheduled in order to continue on the path of federally-regulated online poker throughout the U.S. with each state having the option to opt out at their discretion.