Pennsylvania Hearing Paints Online Poker in Positive Light

Posted on April 17th, 2015 by Daniel Ryder
Pennsylvania House online poker hearing

The Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee held an online poker hearing Thursday. (Image: PAHouseArchives.org)

Online poker hasn’t always been given a fair shake when it comes to governmental hearings.

Last month’s Congressional hearing in front of a House subcommittee featured witnesses that opposed Internet gambling and saw their views go largely unchallenged.

But that was hardly the case in Pennsylvania, where it was opponents of Internet poker who found it difficult to defend their position against legislators who had pointed questions to ask.

The Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee held a hearing on Internet gaming on Thursday, one that featured a variety of experts and opinions from across the spectrum, including that of Las Vegas Sands executive Andy Abboud, who took up the anti-online poker position.

Throughout his testimony, Abboud reiterated many of the points that Sheldon Adelson and others who support the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) have brought up in the past: he questioned the Department of Justice interpretation of the Wire Act, argued that online poker would negatively impact live gambling operations in the state, and that minors could gain access to poker sites.

Experts, Industry Insiders Called to Testify

But in this case, Abboud’s testimony was the exception, not the rule. There were a number of other witnesses called, all of whom were experts on aspects of online gambling or, like Abboud, officials at major gaming firms.

Caesars sent Senior Vice President David Satz, while Penn National Gaming was represented by Chris Sheffield, the senior vice president of interactive gaming for the firm.

Experts included Michael Pollock of the Spectrum Gaming Group, a casino consulting firm in New Jersey, as well as Kevin Mullaly, the vice president of government relations for certification and testing company Gaming Laboratories International.

But the most illuminating testimony may have come from GeoComply Operations Manager Lindsay Slader, who demonstrated just how accurate their geolocation technology could be.

“We have it pretty much down to a building level,” Slater said, showing how the company’s technology could distinguish two people playing on opposite ends of the same Starbucks in New Jersey.

Interestingly, even Abboud was forced to admit that geolocation technology can be effective, as he noted that the Venetian casino in Las Vegas allowed mobile gaming on its premises and had the ability to prevent individuals participating from outside of the property.

PPA Responds to Abboud Testimony

The Poker Players Alliance was one notable absence from the hearings, though it’s still possible that they may participate in a second hearing on Internet gaming scheduled for May.

But despite the fact that he didn’t speak at the hearings, PPA Executive Director John Pappas had plenty to say in reaction to the witnesses, particularly Abboud. The PPA released an eight-page response to Abboud’s testimony designed to refute his talking points.

“Sands’ testimony today is a house of cards that is more about fear mongering than providing the Committee with meaningful insights on how to best protect consumers,” Pappas said. “It’s clear that they are not really concerned about Pennsylvania citizens’ safety, but rather the corporation’s bottom line.

The PPA will continue to share the facts with Pennsylvania lawmakers on why a licensed and regulated online gaming market is the best and only way to ensure citizens are protected through a system that is accountable to regulators and the government.”

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