Caesars Entertainment Is Reported to Be behind an Anti-Online Gambling Bill
A dispute has formed over whether Caesars Entertainment helped author an anti-online gambling bill which would ban all Internet gaming besides, poker. Nevada Senator Dean Heller wants to introduce a bill that would ban all forms of online gaming, except iPoker.
Nevada political analyst Jon Ralston recently reported that the bill is making its rounds on Congressional Hill. Ralston’s report sparked a controversy, because he claimed Caesars Entertainment was denying it had anything to do with such a bill. Caesars has been a staunch supporter of online gaming since it became an issue again in late 2011.
According to Ralston, Heller’s legislation should not be considered “a Sands bill“. The report went on to say that any suggestion attributing the bill to well-known anti-online gambling executive Sheldon Adelson would be a “silly suggestion“.
Andy Abboud, the vice president of Las Vegas Sands Corps., is quoted as saying, “It is no our bill, nor do we support it.”
Ralston Tracks Bill’s Source
Jon Ralston tracked the bill’s source back to Haley Barbour, a lobbyist for Caesars Entertainment. The bill complies with Caesars’ position on online gambling, with poker included by “gambling” games banned. Poker is seen by many as a game of skill, because a gambler is facing a human opponent who can be bluffed, “read”, or otherwise beaten with a better understanding of probability. Games like slot machines are based on pure luck.
Haley Barbour has long ties to Caesars Entertainment. Caesars owned casinos down in Mississippi when Barbour was the government, from 2004 to 2012.
Internet 6 Gambling Prohibition and Control Act of 2014
Then name of the bill is “Internet 6 Gambling Prohibition and Control Act of 2014”. An excerpt reads “To prohibit Internet gambling in order to protect consumers and the public interest.” The bill goes on to say “the proliferation of gambling activity, increases in gambling addiction, and other socially undesirable behavior?”
The bill goes on to state the Justice Department’s 2011 memorandum on the Wire Act has continued to help the proliferation of the gambling, both with offshore operators and with state-licensed gaming operations. The bill hopes to clarify the federal government’s position on the 1961 Wire Act and the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.
Why Poker Is Maintained
The bill describes poker as game “in which success over the long run is influenced by the skill of the player.” Sports wagers and casino games would be illegal, because they are more luck-based. Horse racing, lotteries, and fantasy sports are exceptions under the bill, much like they were with the UIGEA.
Nevada Leads on Anti-Gambling
Nevada is now the U.S. leader in anti-online gambling activism. Senator Dean Heller is the sponsor of the bill, and he said in February 2014 that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada was working with him to bring a ban on gaming to Washington D.C. this year.
Just like in the Sheldon Adelson case, gambling writers scoff at the companies making the biggest profits off of gamblers invoking “problem gambling”–or any other moral qualms about their opposition to gaming. Desire to avoid charges of hypocrisy are one reason a gaming company might keep its opposition a secret.
Caesars Entertainment would be open to particular criticism, though. Caesars has been a vocal advocate of licensed online gambling in New Jersey, where it owns two gaming portals for online casinos and poker rooms. The card room support is consistent with the current bill. Criticizing online casinos on the one hand, while making a profit off of them on another hand, would be seen as crass hypocrisy.
Reasons to Support
One reason support might not be so hypocritical is the purpose behind such legislation. With the Restoration of the Wire Act already making its way through Congress, it might be that Caesars Entertainment and the two Nevada senators are trying to preserve what they can of online gambling.
If they decide that Sheldon Adelson’s campaign might ban all online gambling, then they might choose to save what they can, which would be an improvement over the situation in 2006 to 2012. Nevada already signed an iPoker compact with Delaware. A federal law allowing online poker would allow Nevada to become a leading in an interstate online poker community.
The current bill also might be a precaution against success of the Restoration of the Wire Act. U.S. legislators might be hesitant to entirely dismiss a ban on online gambling, if they don’t want to be seen as supporting immoral behavior. They also might be hesitant to ban all gaming, in the hopes that their home state could receive some tax revenues. In this situation, if a hardline bills is going around the Senate, then a more moderate bill might be seen as a healthy alternative.