Monday February 17 ,2014 : ADELSON FRONTMEN MAY BE OVER-DOING ONLINE GAMBLING BASHING
Excessive hyperbole and questionable claims in scare campaign come in for criticism.
Wellington Webb, Blanche Lincoln and George Pataki – the fronts for Sheldon Adelson's Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) have again been taken to task by media on the hyperbole and questionable statements made in promoting a ban on US internet gambling.
The respected Las Vegas Review Journal reported on the repetitive language used by the trio in a recent telephone press conference, commenting that the perception was created that online gambling may be "…responsible for every ill known to mankind."
Writing in the LVRJ blog, Howard Stutz noted: "The paid representatives for the Washington, D.C.-based coalition – funded by Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson – used scare tactics and hyperbole to make two key points: A “timeout” should be taken on Internet wagering expansion and Congress needs to restore a federal online gaming ban."
Webb, a former Denver mayor, claimed during the press conference that Internet gambling expands like a disease, and expressed concern that Americans would become addicted to gambling from their living rooms and never leave the house, with jobs lost as a consequence. Something of a reach, even for a former politician.
Retired U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln sang from the same hyperbolic hymn sheet, asserting that online gambling would destroy families, and claiming that supporters of online gambling were hell-bent on putting "…casinos in the pockets of children, 24/7.”
Perhaps the most dire warning in the CSIG strategy book came from former New York Governor George Pataki, who claimed that US national security is jeopardised by Internet gaming.
Stutz reported that Pataki cited points from an FBI letter, which he said warned that criminals and terrorists could use the activity to launder money.
However, as Stutz pointed out in his blog, the carefully crafted CSIG scare message omits the other part of the FBI message – that any financial transaction, including those at banks and land-based casinos, could become a conduit for money laundering.
Pataki was also critical of the US Justice Department's December 2011 policy switch that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting, opening the path for online wagering in individual states.
The former governor feels that such a wide-reaching interpretive decision has social impacts and should have first been the subject of public debate, but his criticism is selective, as Stutz illustrates:
"He brushed off a comparison of online gaming to New York’s lottery, which grew in size during his tenure as governor from 1995 to 2006. There is a dramatic difference, he said, between a lottery ticket and the Internet."
Some of the CSIG's new-found 39 conservative-religious organisation allies were also present at the press conference, bulking up the rhetoric for the usual three CSIG spokespersons, who have been vigorously delivering the Adelson gospel on a diversity of media channels recently.
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a division of the American Principles Project voiced his opinion too, saying that online gambling was not part of the America his organisation wanted.
Stutz wonders whether all this energy and lobbying against online gambling really has an attentive audience among the politicians that Adelson seeks to influence into passing an internet gambling ban.
He points out that two bills seeking to federally regulate online poker and internet gambling more generally have found little support, whilst a proposal for a ban "floating" around the House of Representatives has yet to find a sponsor
Stutz concludes that unless CSIG strategists can come up with a more cogent approach than arguable scare tactics, the campaign will remain largely ineffective.