This is my first real foray into madness that is Sheldon Adelson’s attempts to thwart online poker and online gambling legislation. Frankly, I’m of the Chris Grove opinion when it comes to the best way to counteract Adelson, but I’m not fully on board with a “just ignore it attitude.”
Here are a few thoughts I have on the matter.
Don’t question Adelson’s motives
A lot of people question Adelson’s motives, and it doesn’t take too much effort to put two and two together and think that the billionaire casino magnate is simply fighting online gambling to protect his land-based casino empire.
But it’s not like Adelson couldn’t get involved in the online industry, he definitely has the resources. For this reason I take Adelson at his word; he’s simply against online gambling on moral grounds. Strange, contradictory moral grounds, but moral grounds nonetheless.
The point is, people are entitled to their opinions, and if someone objects to gambling there is no argument in the world that will change their mind. Just say, “I respect your opinion on the matter but I disagree with you.” Instead everyone is out there trying to prove Adelson wrong.
Furthermore, we know Adelson has no problem whatsoever with contradictions or making strange bedfellows.
After all, this is the guy who spent tens-of-millions of dollars to help Newt Gingrich during the 2012 presidential primary, with many of those dollars being spent on attack ads against Mitt Romney, and then after Romney won the Republican primary Adelson started sending seven- and eight-figure checks to the Romney campaign and their associated Super Pacs without batting an eyelash.
So is it really a surprise that Adelson would be ok with live casinos, but completely against online casinos on moral grounds? Is this someone you really want to argue with?
Don’t engage with anyone who has moral objections to gambling
When someone objects to something on moral grounds (be it online poker, abortion, gay marriage, drugs, war, whatever) it’s pointless to argue with them. First, as I mentioned above they will never change their mind, and as Mark Twain so famously quipped:
“Never argue with a fool, onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.”
When you engage a man who is a billionaire casino owner, whose argument is, “online gambling is wrong on moral grounds,” you really can’t get much closer to living in the Twain quote above.
Second, what we are dealing with here is an 80 year old man who is not living in the same reality the rest of us are. He has more money than he knows what to do with, and some truly ideological and out of the box ideas on a variety of issues.
But forget that for a minute: Let’s just assume his deck still has a full 52 cards in it to begin with; who is Adelson appealing to with his anti-online gaming arguments? What constituency is in line with him on online gambling; maybe the Focus on the Family crowd?
And then ask yourself, how did his “influence” affect the 2012 presidential race other than news outlets snickering at his ridiculous spending? A handful of op-eds and an anti-gaming website are not going to write public policy.
The moral objections some people have to poker and gambling is a fight we don’t need to have. If somebody is yelling in the streets: “What about the children? Won’t anyone think of the children?” just let them yell, no matter how powerful they are the only people they are appealing to are people of a similar mindset.
This isn’t the early 20th century and Temperance Movement isn’t making a comeback; if anything the pendulum has swung the other way and prohibitions against vices are starting to fall by the wayside. Adelson’s rants are simply the last gasps of a losing argument.
Focus on prohibition and how it has done nothing to curb unregulated online poker
Having said all that, the best way to counteract Adelson is not to rebut his arguments; it’s to change the subject. Stop trying to say how online gambling doesn’t increase problem gambling, or explain the player verification process that will keep kids from playing. What we need to do is act like the guy in the AT&T commercials doing focus groups with little kids:
“What would you rather have unregulated online poker with zero safeguards and no tax revenue, or regulated poker with effective but not perfect safeguards and extra tax revenue?”
Or better yet, why doesn’t someone sit in front of Congress and ask every member to attempt to sign up at say Lock Poker, as well as at BorgataPoker.com or some other New Jersey site? It would be interesting to see how Adelson’s argument that online poker cannot be regulated, and that regulated online poker will attract kids (with stolen credit cards) to their tables, plays out when the family dog could register at an unregulated room with no issues –until he tried to cash out his winnings of course.
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