Sheldon Adelson’s CSIG Produces Anti-Online Gaming Ad for Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, online gambling legislation called House Bill 649 is being championed by Rep. John Payne. It is one of 5 bills proposed by different Pennsylvania politicians at the state level in the past couple of years (3 this year), but Payne’s bill is the one most people assume has a chance.
The idea behind the legislation is to create a $300 million industry, which could be taxed to help Pennsylvania’s state government solve its budget crisis. While iGaming would not solve the budget issues, it is seen as a way to generate revenue without raising taxes.
Not everyone wants to see Payne’s bill bill. Several online gaming sites have reported recently how Sheldon Adelson is against the Pennsylvania online gaming legalization movement. They also report he might have special influence in the state. So far, they have slowed down passage. Now, Adelson’s people want to stop it altogether.
Coalition to Stop Internet Gaming (CSIG)
Sheldon Adelson funded the creation of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gaming (CSIG), which opposes online gambling anywhere it might gain a foothold in the United States. Pennsylvania is a trouble spot, because Adelson’s Sands Bethlehem generates the most revenues of any casino in the state. Not only does the CSIG effort in Pennsylvania have Adelson’s vast wealth backing it, but the state is full of politicians who have supported LVS initiatives before, due to the Philadelphia-area casino’s operations. Those politicians are also quite aware of the money and influence Sheldon Adelson has.
Recently, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gaming produced an anti-online gambling commercial. Taking a look at their political attack ads might be instructive, so let give a complete dissection of those videos.
“Are Pennsylvania Kids Safe Online?”
In an impressionistic 30-second ad, charges are made, yet no quotes or examples are offered. Viewers are urged to put pressure on John Payne to end his support of HB649. The question posed by the commercial was “are Pennsylvania kids safe online?”
The full text of the CSIG commercial follows.
After asking its rhetorical question, the video’s text reads: “Not with Rep. John Payne, who is working hard to legalize predatory online gambling. News reports show these predators target our children online, even using Disney-looking cartoons to entice them to gamble. Seniors are especially vulnerable to promises of big-money payoffs, but there’s no payoff for Pennsylvania families. Call John Payne and tell him, ‘Predatory online gambling is not the answer.‘”
“New Reports Show They Target Our Children”
The political ad suggests that new sources have reported that the online gambling sites target children with cartoon advertisements. The commercial shows an 8-year old or 9-year old boy looking sad, presumably because he’s been targeted by online gambling ads. No news outlets are mentioned, so it is hard to verify whether these are TV news shows, newspapers, or online sources.
Since the discussion is about regulating online casino and poker sites, the only legitimate comparison is to discuss regulated online gambling in other states. The impression given is online casinos operating in New Jersey and Delaware literally target 8-year old gamblers. Those are the two US states with legal iGaming nearest to Pennsylvania. They are the two niche most often compared to the Keystone State’s potential Internet gaming industry.
The further charge is that gaming operators use “Disney-looking cartoons” to lure children to play in online casinos. Once again, no examples of those cartoons are given. One might wonder whether the recent inclusion of Net Entertainment is being referred to, since NetEnt is known for its bright-colored 3D computer graphics, which often have funny characters that could be described as cartoonish. Still, the commercial was created before the Swedish slot machine designer announced it would be operating in the New Jersey market.
In fact, viewers come away with the idea that Sheldon Adelson’s group is trying to conflate the illegal online casino industry with the legalized, reglated gaming industry John Payne supports. Any sanctioned gaming sites would be shut down immediately, if it was marketing to 8 year old children.
It is the same bait-and-switch Lindsey Graham has tried in the U.S. Senate, where he suggested unregulated online casinos might fund terrorism, then suggested doing away with all regulated online casinos, thus creating a situation where only unregulated sites could exist. Since Americans continue to gamble, Lindsey Graham’s suggestion was to make it so gamblers could only gamble at sites which might support terrorism. Luckily, few on Capitol Hill seem to buy his arguments.
A video surfaced earlier this year which purported to expose the hypocrisy of those assertions. The video, called “Sheldon Adelson Exposed: Underage Drinking & Gambling”, was produced for online consumption by “The Tim James Show”. The show sent people who appeared to be underage playing in Las Vegas Sands casino who never had to show their identification. Even seedier points were made.
Senior Are Targeted
Let us return to the CSIG advertisement, though. In an amazing display of chutzpah, the video mentioned that “seniors are especially vulnerable”. Real studies that anyone can research show that land-based casinos get a tremendous percentage of their revenues from senior citizens. Land-based sites go well beyond marketing; they arrange for special bus rides for senior citizens from outlying communities. These rides are meant to lure seniors into their casinos, then direct them to slots row, which are the easiest games to play.
In fact, it is easy to pull up pages in which Sheldon Adelson’s own casino is marketing to senior citizens. That is not the only case where Sands Bethlehem targets the same people they criticize others for targeting.
On June 25, 2015, NJ.com reported that the Golden Ages of Bayonne arranged bus rides for seniors to the Sands Bethlehem casino in Western Pennsylvania. The idea was to give these older players an inexpensive ticket to the casino. While Sands Bethlehem might not have arranged the bus rides directly, the casino is known to arrange busing for high value mass market customers, and they were certainly willing to take this group of senior citizens’ money.
Every gambler knows perks and discounts are offered for one reason only: to get people to gamble more often.
Charges of Hypocrisy
This is not the first time people have pointed out seeming hypocrisy by Sheldon Adelson and his proxies. Former US Rep. Ron Paul and current US Sen. Rand Paul have made those charges before. Geoff Freeman of the Poker Players Alliance is tireless in asserting that point. Countless online gaming writers have made the point, too.