Abboud / Mitch Debate Highlights iGaming North America Conference Day 1

Posted on March 21st, 2014 by Robert DellaFave

iGaming North AmericaA featured debate at this year’s iGNA pitted anti-iGaming advocate Andrew Abboud verses Caesars Interactive Entertainment chief Mitch Garber.

It was the battle those fortunate enough to attend Day 1 of the 2014 iGNA lined up in droves to witness. In one corner was Las Vegas Sands head of governmental affairs and Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) spokesman Andrew Abboud. In the other, Mitch Garber – chief executive for Caesars Interactive Entertainment and proponent of regulated Internet gambling.

Unlike his boss, CSIG head and staunch iGaming opponent Sheldon Adelson, Abboud focused more on concerns shared by Internet gambling supporters than he did the supposed moralistic evils associated with gambling from one’s home computer. Abboud cited PokerStars’ recent involvement with the Morongo and other card rooms in California as one of his fears, indicating that if a no “bad actor” clause were introduced in the Golden State, it would have negative repercussions on the entire industry. Garber did not dispute the validity of Abboud’s well-reasoned point.

However, Garber did note that Abboud’s stance was not consistent with the position Sheldon Adelson has put out there. For those who don’t know, Adelson has launched the equivalent of a modern hate campaign against Internet gambling, publicly stating that he is willing to spend whatever amount of money necessary to see that it doesn’t happen. The Las Vegas Sands CEO and 8th richest mogul in the world holds the belief that online gambling cannibalizes brick and mortar revenues and poses a risk to minors and society in general – despite possessing little evidence to support his grandiose claims.

Garber was also quick to point out that online operators go through the same licensing process for its land-based casinos that they do for their online casinos. Seeing as Caesars is already host to a bevy of regulated gambling sites in New Jersey, he is in a rare position to assert the validity of this claim.

Both individuals shared the same indignant stance against off-shore sites accepting US-customers, albeit for different reasons. But whereas Garber believed that Internet gambling is a natural evolution of real-money wagering, Abboud argued, We need to be careful and very transparent about who we are and the risk that we have, – at least indicating that given the proper accessibility, individuals who otherwise wouldn’t wager real funds if online gaming didn’t exist would suddenly become problem gamblers.

It’s at this point that Garber became more aggressive, condemning the CSIG for spending a lot of money on things you don’t know about. Garber was referring to the technological processes used in online gaming, arguing that it is far more sophisticated than the human technology in land-based gaming.

Abboud refuted Garber’s claims, claiming that he had been debriefed by Caesars, and that a company like Caesars would naturally institute strong protocols for its online casino, as any grievous mistake would endanger its b&m brand. He then turned his attention back to PokerStars’, stating that they do not have that fear.

The debate ended with the two discussing the online poker-only vs. full Internet gambling debate, with Abboud concluding that a compromise was not in order. Abboud’s closing remark was directed at smaller casino operators, namely Indian tribes, indicating that if a federally instituted iGaming bill comes to pass, that the little guy will be left out in the cold.

The Abboud / Garber debate was originally reported on by iGaming analyst Marco Valerio.

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