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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.
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:
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.
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.
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.