Sheldon Adelson is not only the most prominent activist against online gambling in the United States, but also one of the largest donors to the campaigns of Republican lawmakers across the country. So when the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) invited Adelson to send a representative from his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) to debate the issue of Internet gambling, it seemed like a natural, welcoming venue for one of Adelson’s top representatives to weigh in on the issue.
Instead, those in attendance were disappointed to find that nobody from CSIG had showed up to debate at all. While most were expecting Las Vegas Sands Vice President Andy Abboud to take CSIG’s side of the issue, he couldn’t be found, and neither could anyone else who represented the opponents of online gambling. That meant there was no debate to be had.
Debate Would Have Pitted PPA vs. CSIG
The debate, which was billed as “Full House: Whose Got the Winning Hand? A Debate on Internet Freedom and the 10th Amendment: Should Congress Shut Down State-Authorized Gambling Sites?” would have pitted Abboud or another CSIG representative against Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas, who pulled no punches when talking about his opponents’ failure to participate.
“I guess when the rubber meets the road, prohibition supporters realize they can’t backup their fear-mongering PR campaign with actual facts,” Pappas said in a statement after the no-show. “I was looking forward to an open and fair debate on the future of online gaming, and not just because the facts are on our side.”
The debate would likely have centered on the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the bill being pushed by Adelson and others to rewrite the Wire Act and make it apply to all forms of online gambling rather than just sports betting. The bill would ban most forms of Internet gambling across the entire United States, likely even ending existing operations in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. That has caused rifts in the Republican Party, as some there want to support Adelson’s effort while others believe states have the right to regulate gaming matters themselves.
“Before Congress votes on any legislation that would impose a broad prohibition, like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), I think American voters deserve to hear both sides clearly articulate how such a ban impacts consumers, states and the economy,” Pappas said. “The fact that the primary RAWA supporters refused to join this debate, after significant effort by the organizers, tells me that they want their bill rubberstamped instead of openly debated on the merits.”
Abboud Has Debated Online Gambling Before
While it’s unclear why the Adelson camp failed to send anyone to the debate, there have been some poor public showings from representatives, including Abboud, in the past. In a debate with Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber held last March, Abboud admitted that he couldn’t follow a presentation about Internet safeguards against fraud and underage gambling, saying that “they lost me” while talking about the topic. He also made a strange comment aimed at the PPA, referring to their “creepy Twitter followers.”
RAWA is expected to receive a public hearing from the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on March 5.