Tuesday’s Senate subcommittee hearing went favorably for pro-online gambling forces, while Sheldon Adelson’s representative was seen as hypocritical.
The House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade listened to witness testimony on “The State of Online Gaming” that was televised on C-Span and streamed over the Internet via webcast. Both Geoff Freeman of the American Gaming Association (AGA)and John Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the organizations clearly promoting online poker legislation, were well-prepared and largely seen as effective in providing testimony and answering questions from subcommittee members.
Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson, an outspoken critic of Internet gambling regulation, was represented at the hearing by Andrew Abboud, the Sands Corporation’s Vice President of Government Relations and Community Development. Abboud was called
hypocritical by both Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas).
Abboud parroted Adelson’s views that online gambling legislation would be harmful to society, particularly minors and those with gambling problems. He help up a Smartphone and insisted that with online gambling legalization, every mobile device user would have a casino in their hands and such an occurence takes gambling a bit
Schakowsky later attacked this contention, citing the fact that marketing efforts from a Las Vegas Sands property, the Venetian casino, promoted mobile wagering. Barton, whose Internet Poker Freedom Act introduced in July was a key matter under review during the hearing, also took aim at Abboud. Barton actually displayed marketing materials on a screen touting mobile devices used by a Sands gaming establishment.
Also providing testimony were Les Bernal, National Director of Stop Predatory Gambling; Rachel Volberg, associate professor at the University of Massachusetts and an expert on problem gambling; and Kurt Eggert, a professor at Chapman University specializing in gambling law.
Bernal vehemently opposes any forms of gambling, insisting that far too much revenue obtained via gambling comes from those who show signs of addiction. Volberg discussed the need for more money to be allocated for problem gambling. Eggert stressed the need for online gamblers to have plenty of information at their fingertips should online gambling be legalized.
Eggert mentioned casino advantage percentages for house-banked games and a rating system for poker players as a couple of pieces of information that would better educate those who wager money online. Eggert also focused on the need to eliminate bots on the virtual felt, which was a familiar refrain from similar testimony he provided to the same subcommittee in 2011.
But successfully outlining reasons for online poker legislation were Freeman and Pappas, the top executives of their respective organizations, the AGA and PPA. Freeman rightly spoke of how Internet gambling is here to stay and not going away, citing that many countries throughout the world are regulating it effectively.
Pappas mentioned that Europe has successfully regulated online gambling for a decade and there is no reason why the U.S. cannot do the same. The PPA exec also pointed out that no instances of underage gambling have been reported in either Delaware, New Jersey or Nevada, the three states that have enacted online poker and gambling legislation thus far.
Subcommittee members will now submit in writing any additional questions they have to the witnesses who provided testimony. Following receipt of the answers, the lawmakers will take the matter under advisement. Let’s hope that further hearings will be scheduled that delve deeper into the need for federal online poker legislation in the U.S.