MGM Flexes Its Influence, Encourages New York Lawmakers To Pass Online Poker Bill

MGM Support For New York Online Poker Legislation Carries The Weight Of Authority

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Yesterday’s news that the New York Senate Finance Committee had passed Senator John Bonacic’s online poker bill, was quickly followed by a press statement from MGM Resorts International praising the move.

MGM General Counsel John McManus said:

“This legislation recognizes that millions of New Yorkers play online poker on unregulated and unprotected off-shore poker websites that operate with no oversight, fraud controls, or age restrictions.

We applaud the Senate Finance Committee’s vote to create a safe, legal environment for online poker through legislation that will generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue for taxpayers, and create open and fair opportunities for all providers of online poker.”

MGM support will reduce political opposition

As one of the largest live casino operators, MGM’s support is an important counter-balance to objections from casinos opposed to online poker.

Any protestations of cannibalization will be muted, and MGM can authoritatively refute many of the arguments advanced by Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson through his Coalition to Stop Internet Gaming (CSIG).

CSIG went so far as to produce an inflammatory video condemning similar legislation in Pennsylvania. The video titled “Are Pennsylvania kids safe online?” presented a misleading impression of internet gambling and was full of outright falsehoods.

Something similar can be expected for New York as Senator Bonacic’s S5302 bill moves forward.

MGM supported its position with facts

The MGM statement included a clear exposition of the rationale behind the company’s position on the issue of legalizing online poker:

“The alternative isn’t no online poker, it’s an unregulated system of off-shore websites with no fraud controls, responsible gaming requirements or age restrictions. This legislation would create rigorous standards and protocols to protect the public.

Every year, New Yorkers spend millions of dollars on off-shore poker sites that put players’ personal information and safety at risk. Legal online poker will protect consumers against scams, combat problem gaming, and prevent minors from playing.”

The statement also drew on and quoted the support of the New York State Fraternal Order of Police:

“New York should be at the forefront of the effort to prevent our citizens from wagering on unlicensed, unregulated websites located offshore and beyond the reach of law enforcement.”

MGM quoted Dr. Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety, “the largest and oldest online safety, education, and help group in the world” as saying:

“Online gambling poses many risks in an unregulated state. But the U.S., along with other leading countries that license and regulate online gambling, understand that burying our head in the sand protects no one. The only way to address online gambling risks to children, seniors, problem gamblers and others is by regulating it and enforcing best practices – not by pretending it doesn’t exist.”

MGM is a long time supporter of regulated internet gaming

The Poker Players Alliance reminded OPR that MGM gave evidence at the hearing on the senate bill last September:

This week, the news broke that MGM has bought out Boyd Gaming’s 50 percent share in the Borgata Hotel & Casino in New Jersey.

The $900 million investment gives MGM 100 percent ownership in the Borgata which even after the market entry of PokerStars remains the top revenue producer in online gaming in New Jersey.

Now that MGM owns the property outright—through MGM Growth Properties LLC—it has an even bigger stake in U.S. legal internet gaming.

PokerStars Team Pro and New Yorker Jason Somerville added his support

PokerStars Team Pro and the most popular poker player on Twitch, Jason Somerville, tweeted his call to New York Assemblyman Steve Englebright to support the legislation:

While Somerville may not carry the same weight of authority that MGM does with New York politicians, his social media prowess could surprise them with the response.

- A former founder of Poker Industry Pro and Head of Content at PokerNews publisher iBus Media, Joss Wood is a graduate in English from the University of Birmingham. Joss also holds a master’s degree in Organisational Development from the University of Manchester. His career path has taken him from the British Army, through business and finance to seven years as a successful professional poker player.
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