Why Sheldon Adelson’s Opposition is a Good Thing for Regulated Online Gambling

Present From Adelson to iGaming
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The news, trumpeted in a Washington Post feature, that casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is planning to launch a fresh offensive against regulated online gambling has inspired a number of reactions – anger, incredulity and anxiety among them.

All are understandable, reasonable reactions.

But I think there’s a case to be made that Adelson’s plans are actually a positive development for supporters of regulated online poker and gambling in the United States. And here are three of the biggest reasons why.

Adelson’s opposition accelerates the iGaming regulation conversation

If Adelson’s initiative is as public and aggressive as previewed, then it will naturally elevate the general topic of regulated online gambling into a new stratum politically and in the media.

Why is that a positive? A few reasons:

  • Right now the issue of regulated iGaming simply isn’t a priority in many states. But media attention can add urgency to an issue, rallying supporters and providing the political momentum necessary to make the issue a priority.
  • Every argument raised by Adelson against regulated online gambling is also – whether he likes it or not – an argument against unregulated online gambling. And regulated online gambling is the only logical solution to the problem of unregulated online gambling. This is a powerful arrow in the quiver for proponents of regulation (one that PokerFuse’s Nick Jones articulated at length here).
  • Any campaign like Adelson’s would elicit a response from supporters of regulated online gambling. But Adelson’s involvement will increase the scope and ferocity of that response.

In a nutshell: Supporters of online gambling regulation should welcome the spotlight Adelson’s campaign will throw on the issue, as they have little to lose and much to gain from the increased attention.

It’s a debate that was going to happen regardless. And if the Tarrance Group surveys are any indication of the quality of Adelson’s ammo, it’s a debate proponents of regulated online gambling should be able to win handily.

Adelson’s involvement forces the rest of industry to choose a side – and fight

The land-based casino industry has long been ambivalent about the issue of online gambling. That ambivalence has, over the course of the last few years, given way to something more like grudging acceptance.

But acceptance is not the same as enthusiasm, and many in the industry have remained effectively on the fence when it comes to regulated online gambling.

Adelson’s involvement changes that equation, drawing a clear line in the sand between support and opposition. It will be much more difficult for any given member of the industry to waffle on the issue as a result.

Adelson’s involvement also presents a clarion call for proponents of online gambling within the industry. They understand that the best defense against Adelson’s attack is to make regulated online gambling a part of the status quo. The quicker the activity is available in the greatest number of states, the more quixotic Adelson’s quest to roll it back becomes.

Adelson makes online gambling seem less controversial by comparison

Imagine an undecided voter considering a hypothetical vote to regulate online gambling.

Now imagine a fierce campaign to swing that voter away from supporting regulation, a campaign publicly driven by a casino-owning billionaire whose name has become shorthand for the outsized influence of money on American politics and who recently suggested nuking Iran.

If anything, Adelson’s opposition to regulated online gambling – and the hyperbole he will inevitably unleash to advance that opposition – will make proponents of regulated online gambling seem sober and mainstream by comparison.

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Chris Grove
- Chris is the publisher of OnlinePokerReport.com. Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.