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April 17, 2014

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Letter from Washington:

Adelson puts damper on efforts to legalize Internet gambling

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Kin Cheung / AP

Sheldon Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., is against online gambling because he doesn’t believe young people can be prevented from making wagers, a spokesman said Wednesday. Adelson is shown here at a news conference for the opening of the Venetian Macao Resort Hotel on Aug. 28, 2007.

Washington -- The revelation last week that one of Nevada’s most prominent casino owners, Las Vegas Sands Corp.’s Sheldon Adelson, is opposed to legalizing online poker sent a cross-country shock wave through the online poker community. The question asked most often: Will this hurt the chances that Congress will pass a bill?

Maybe a little. But what is more likely to kill the prospect of an online poker bill is the lack of a viable online poker bill.

Earlier this year, poker lobbyists identified the sweet spot on the congressional calendar for such legislation as anytime before the end of 2011, before all political considerations became entirely subsumed by the presidential election. (The Republican primary season starts with the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 3.)

But then Sen. Jon Kyl, the Republicans’ No. 2 guy in the U.S. Senate and the pro-poker community’s No. 1 target lawmaker needed to strike a deal, got appointed to Sen. Harry Reid’s debt reduction supercommittee.

Then, Kyl shunned the idea of incorporating online poker into the government’s efforts to come up with $1.2 trillion in debt reductions, even though taxes on the new industry are expected to be a revenue-generator for the federal government.

Now, Kyl is shunning entreaties to say what he told Adelson about the prospects for legalizing online poker.

“I’m not going to talk about meetings I have with people,” Kyl said when approached by the Sun last week. “He’s a friend of mine. I met with him, period.”

Kyl has never been a fan of legalizing online poker. He crusaded against it for years before the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed in 2006, and after that, was one of the most outspoken members of Congress pressuring the government to enforce it.

But this year, Kyl signaled a willingness to talk about the gaming regulation and enforcement. And since, he’s been the other half of the handshake with Harry Reid that needs to happen if poker stands a chance of clearing Congress.

Beyond that, there really isn’t another option this Congress. A House bill backed by Texas Rep. Joe Barton and Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley ran aground almost before it could set sail. The reasons: some of the bill’s enforcement provisions and an unfortunate alliance between its chief backer, the Poker Players Alliance, and the online poker operators — Full Tilt, PokerStars, and Ultimate Poker — recently indicted in federal court on charges of money laundering to circumvent the federal online gaming ban.

(The PPA has vehemently and repeatedly disavowed the association, which is financial in nature.)

In fact, since it was introduced, Berkley — who remains a staunch advocate of legalizing online poker — hasn’t angled for her bill at all. But she’s not the only one who’s remaining strangely silent.

Since Adelson came to Washington to deliver his anti-online poker opinion to Kyl and Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, the usual suspects are staying suspiciously silent — in contrast to their usual boosterism of a poker bill — declining opportunities to comment on the record about the chances that online poker legislation will make it onto the calendar in the coming year.

For those listening carefully, that means maybe it won’t.

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  1. The kids dont need a casino in the pocket, think people,you see the way kids text ,that is how kids(gaming age 21) and adults will also,our country is in a mess ,lets throw this into the mix. So Caesars Ent,can profit from people who cant go to a casino or dont have the money ,the safe gards are not inforce,Just ask congressman John Tierney,his sister owns a online offshore casino,So lets not worry abought Mr.Adelson. Note to investors, LVS will be on the cutting edge when and if online gaming comes to town.stick that into your IPO Gary.

  2. @Gaminglawyer,
    How has the online verification been solved? A long time ago, you say? Pleaes offer more information.

    You also say the US want to stop competition from smaller and foreign competition. The last time I checked poker revenue are not the driving force for gaming revenue in land base casinos.

    Internet gaming is a back of the house operation. How many people does it take to turn on a computer or service a computer server?

    The big questions about "security" and "how many jobs" have not been answered. Online poker will not be legalized during our life time. Maybe, maybe in the next 15 years, maybe.

  3. Online gambling will cost too much to regulate. I don't want my tax money paying for high priced lawyers to chase con artists, thieves, liars, hookers, misfits and other twisted minds between islands in the Caribbean, South Pacific or China Sea. There will be one enormous scam after another with internet gambling and no good will ever be created. Learn to read instead and accomplish something positive.

  4. gaminglawyer,

    I have been involved professionally with online age verification since 1998 and I say you cannot prove to me that the problem of age verification has been solved. There is simply no way of knowing if Dad or little Johnny is the one who is using an account.

  5. Anyone who gambles against a computer deserves to lose. It is bad enough to do a one on one showdown.

    Go in into loan sharking. The banks do it every and make enough to pay bonuses.