Online Poker Report

Two Casino Behemoths Are About to Slug it Out Over Online Gambling

Garber Abboud iGNA Debate
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The upcoming iGaming North America Conference (iGNA) will host what is likely to be a very spirited debate between Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO and Director Mitch Garber and Andy Abboud, the Vice President of Government Relations for Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

The discussion panel/debate is titled “Is iGaming the Problem or the Solution?” and will take place on March 19, at 2 PM at the Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Casino.

It will be one of the first sessions on the 2014 iGNA conference program, effectively kicking off the conference.

The debate will be moderated by World Poker Tour (WPT) Founder Steve Lipscomb.

For more information on the event please visit www.iGamingNorthAmerica.com.

In the blue corner… Mitch Garber

From the iGNA press release:

Mitch Garber, CEO and Director of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, will weigh in as a proponent of the legalization and regulation of iGaming as a necessary means to proactively address potential concerns.

Garber is an interesting choice to represent online gambling proponents. While he is certainly well-versed in every aspect of the industry, he does open up some avenues of attack for Abboud, as I’ll explain further below.

Still, if you need someone to argue for online gambling regulation you really couldn’t do much better than Mitch Garber.

In the red corner… Andy Abboud

From the iGNA press release:

Andy Abboud, Vice President of Government Relations for Las Vegas Sands Corporation, will expound upon his recent Congressional testimony regarding the risks of online gambling and the need for prohibition.

Abboud is apparently the talking head for the Sheldon Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, as he has already argued the group’s case in front of Congress.

I’ll detail that in just a moment, but so far he hasn’t exactly appeared up to the task.

Abboud’s congressional stumble

Abboud is coming off what has been deemed by advocates of online gambling as a “dreadful” performance in front of Congress, when he appeared before the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on December 10th, along with several other pro- and anti-gambling activists, including John Pappas, the Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance and Geoff Freeman, the new CEO of the American Gaming Association.

Abboud was doing well, sticking to the tried and tested talking points of many online gambling opponents (talking points OPR has debunked on many occasions).

But the wheels started to come off when he was asked a very specific question by Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who inquired about the Venetian’s internal online gambling options, a seemingly “hypocritical” policy that is available to Venetian guests through their mobile devices.

The Venetian also offers online sports-betting throughout Nevada.

Abboud sidestepped Representative Schakowsky’s question, but committee chairman and online poker supporter Representative Joe Barton (R-TX) decided to press the issue of Las Vegas Sands’ hypocrisy.

Barton not only brought up the online gambling options available at the Venetian, but displayed picture slides to hammer home the fact that the Las Vegas Sands, whose representative was at the hearing to rail against online gambling, offers online gambling on their premises.

Abboud’s answer to (or inability to answer) this question was widely circulated, even worthy of some mainstream reporting.

Don’t expect Abboud to stumble again

Despite Abboud’s previous mistake, I wouldn’t count on this happening again.

First off, Sheldon Adelson is a shrewd operator, and if he didn’t have faith in Andy Abboud’s ability to get his message out, he would turn to someone else.

Second, Abboud will have learned from his congressional misstep and is likely armed with a complete repertoire of defenses for the Las Vegas Sands’ contradictory policies on online gambling.

Finally, Abboud has a new potential target to shoot at this time around: Garber himself, who was the subject of some scrutiny by Massachusetts regulators due to his previous positions with Party Gaming and Optimal.

If Abboud can turn the debate into a conversation about Mitch Garber – which some expect Abboud might attempt to do – he might have a chance of faring better than he did in front of Congress.

But regulators in Nevada and New Jersey had no qualms about approving Garber.

And Garber is more than capable of lucidly defending his past and turning such critiques into support for regulation.

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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.