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If I Were Sheldon Adelson and I Read This Op-ed I Paid For, I’d Want My Money Back

Latest anti-online gambling regulation op-ed
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The first anti-online gambling regulation missive from Sheldon Adelson’s hired guns hit the pages of The Hill yesterday.

And if the initial effort by George Pataki, Blanche Lincoln and Wellington Webb – the trio of paid lobbyists hired to front Adelson’s Stop Internet Gambling group – is any indication of the quality to come, there’s a good chance Adelson might soon be requesting a refund.

Let’s walk through the op-ed line by line to see why. It starts off with a bang:

Despite fervent warnings from law enforcement, Internet gambling — accessible anywhere and by anyone — appears to be moving forward full tilt.

Welcome to 2001. Internet gambling, “accessible anywhere and by anyone,” has been available to Americans in unregulated form for nearly two decades.

(And nice one with “full tilt” – I see what you did there).

In a nutshell: If you’re worried about the evils of online gambling, then you should support regulation.


America’s law enforcement community knows the risk. The FBI in 2009 warned that Internet gambling can be used by criminal elements for money laundering and fraud. The agency questioned whether the technology exists to guarantee that children and people with gambling problems are kept away from the sites, countering claims that such technology was available

2009, you say? Interesting that the FBI hasn’t apparently had anything to say about this “risk” for the last four-plus years. Must be a real worry for them.

It also seems less-than-credible to stake your claims of technological feasibility on opinions from 2009.

And let’s talk about this FBI “warning” that opponents of regulation never get tired of marching out. Because it wasn’t a warning at all.

It was a response to a series of hypothetical, leading questions from Sen. Spencer Bachus.

But don’t take my word for it. You can read the full text here and decide for yourself.

And when you do, note one FBI answer that opponents of regulation always forget to mention. Near the end, the FBI is asked “Has U.S. law enforcement discussed potential vulnerabilities of online poker with foreign counterparts? If so, what views have been expressed?”

The answer shows the true level of concern the FBI had at the time regarding the issue (and the level of concern the agency likely has at present):

“The FBI has not engaged in this discussion with our foreign partners.”

I wonder why not … Next?

In addition to some of its fatal flaws, we know from polling that the vast majority of Americans — uniformly, across all demographics — don’t want Internet gaming. They know instinctively that Internet gambling is different.

A recent poll by The Tarrance Group revealed a stunning statistic: even self-described libertarians oppose it.

How do we know that, exactly? Because, speaking of fatal flaws, there were more than a few in The Tarrance Group’s polling.

A four-state poll does not a credible representation of national opinion make – especially when the pollster refuses to make public the questions respondents were asked.

Side note: It’s also far from stunning that libertarians oppose government regulation. That’s sort of their thing.


States rigorously license and regulate land-based casinos. In turn, the gaming industry has implemented effective policies to promote responsible gambling by barring participation by minors and to fully comply with laws ranging from gambling controls, money laundering and tax payments. Such protections of the public interest are not fully available with Internet gambling.

So, let me get this straight: The casino industry was reliable enough to implement “effective policies” and to “fully comply with laws” for their sprawling land-based properties, but will somehow completely drop the ball when it comes to doing the same exact thing online?


As 48 state attorneys general recognized in a letter to Congress in 2006: “Internet gambling is a threat to this carefully crafted system.”

What is it with these three and evidence from the last decade?

And – file this one under “we really should have read the entire letter before citing it in our op-ed” – that very same letter from the NAAG also said:

We encourage the United States Congress to help combat the skirting of state gambling regulations by enacting legislation which would address Internet gambling, while at the same time ensuring that the authority to set overall gambling regulations and policy remains where it has traditionally been most effective: at the state level (emphasis mine).

That’s right. The 48 state attorneys Pataki, et al. trot out to bolster their case actually support the polar opposite position to the one Pataki, et al. are attempting to advance.

Whoops. Next?

However, on Dec. 23, 2011, the Justice Department — with no public input or congressional involvement — issued a legal opinion reversing its long-held position that the Wire Act bars Internet gambling, opening the door for states to authorize non-sports wagering over the Internet.

The DoJ doesn’t typically poll Congress or the public before issuing legal opinions – a relatively routine process well within the Department’s power – so this bit is just pure red meat for Holder-haters.

And if you read the opinion issued by the DoJ, you’ll see that their current interpretation actually brings the agency in line with judicial thinking and Congressional intent regarding the Wire Act.

But wait, there’s more:

Congress needs to act now to restore the long-standing interpretation of the Wire Act, and put up a firewall to guard against the offshore illegal Internet casinos up and running already.

Sure – maybe we could borrow China’s or Iran’s.

Given this momentum, we must act now. Otherwise, Internet gambling will be unleashed nationwide.

A final note to the ladies and gentlemen of SIG: it already was. It’s here. And you just don’t have a legitimate solution to the legitimate problem of unregulated gambling.

But regulation does.

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