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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Adelson to online gaming: Get off my lawn

20 June 2013

LAS VEGAS -- Sheldon Adelson successfully chased those pesky Internet brats off his lawn.

But at the same time he may have pushed potential gamblers out of his casinos. In an opinion piece published on Wednesday, Adelson, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., reiterated his long-standing opposition to Internet gambling.

A copy of the entire article can be found at

The op-ed immediately drew the ire of the online gaming community. As they did when Adelson first raised his concerns about Internet gaming in 2011, poker players took to Twitter and other social media Wednesday, pushing for a boycott of The Venetian’s 59-table poker room.

Adelson previously raised moral objections to Internet gaming. He also believed the technology didn’t provide enough safeguards against underage gambling or problem gambling. He repeated those concerns in Forbes, but now says the activity hurts the bottom line of traditional land-based casinos, citing unnamed research from European countries.

Adelson used phrases such as “fool’s gold” and “societal train wreck” to describe online gambling. He added the activity could bring a “plague” to society.

Adelson, who provided more than $100 million in campaign financing to Republican candidates in the latest election cycle, called on Congress to rewrite the Federal Wire Act or pass new legislation making Internet gaming illegal nationwide.

“(Internet gaming is) a threat to our society — a toxin which all good people ought to resist,” Adelson wrote.

The passion Adelson, 79, has against online gaming can’t be denied. As the father of two teenage sons, Adelson remains morally opposed to the possibility of children accessing the websites. He also worries children can grow addicted to other forms of Internet games.

The problem is that Adelson’s concerns are more than a decade old.

Some of those issues are being addressed in regulated Internet gaming jurisdictions, including Nevada.

Technologies, such as age verification, geo-location, and other safeguards have been approved by independent testing laboratories and Nevada gaming regulators. Ultimate Poker – Nevada and the nation’s only regulated pay-to-play website – uses those systems.

States are moving forward with online gaming legislation at a rapid pace, especially states with active lotteries. American Indian casino interests have also weighed in on the Internet gaming debate.

Frankly, unless Congress makes Internet gaming illegal – a debate that constitutional scholars would likely jump into – the activity is not going away and will only grow in size.

Internet gaming has not been a focus for Las Vegas Sands. In 2001, however, Adelson told the Las Vegas Sun his company would be a major force in the online world.

“Our hat will be in the ring,” Adelson said.

Instead, Las Vegas Sands focused on Macau and Singapore. Almost 80 percent of the company’s $11.13 billion in revenues in 2012 came from Asia. The next focus for the company is Spain. Also expect Las Vegas Sands to be player in any Japan gaming expansion moves.

Internet gaming is just not on the company’s agenda. Adelson’s opinion on the subject, however, has changed. He also doesn’t want anyone else to be able to offer the activity.

The casino industry has long been fractured on Internet gaming. Companies such as Caesars Entertainment – which owns the World Series of Poker – have long advocated for federal legislation. The American Gaming Association, which was first opposed to the activity, then sought a federal, final got off its neutral stance and came out in favor of federal legislation two years ago.

Sources close to Adelson said others in the gaming industry share his view, but are afraid to speak out.

Nevada and New Jersey are doing online gaming the right way. State regulations have tied Internet gaming to land-based casinos and the activity can only take place within the state’s borders.

In Nevada, Ultimate Gaming, the operator of the Ultimate Poker, is majority-owned by Station Casinos. Other casino operators, including the two largest Strip gaming giants, are waiting in the queue.

In New Jersey, only Atlantic City’s 12 casinos are eligible to operate the state’s online gambling websites, which are expected to launch by the end of November.

So where does this leave Adelson and Las Vegas Sands?

Chasing away those Internet kids, apparently.