Billionaires Battle Over Online Gambling

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, an extremist group founded and financed by Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson has come under fire for a Facebook post that appeared in December which suggested that online gambling companies were targeting children. The post was accompanied by a photo that shows a pre adolescent child sitting at a computer gambling. The photo’s caption by so called ‘experts’ who say that internet gambling “is in part intended to draw the younger generation into gambling.” The post and photo angered many in the online gaming community including Rich Muny of the Poker Player’s Alliance who wondered if Adelson’s group actually believed their outlandish claims.

Other posts by Adelson’s extremist group have actually suggested that online gambling was invented by Al Qaeda to fund its terrorist activities. The photo and post are reminiscent of an Australian anti internet gambling campaign that suggested that social gaming sites were grooming children to become gamblers. The group behind the campaign was forced to remove billboards after the local video game industry association pointed out that it is illegal for ads to contain claims that have no basis in fact. Unfortunately the United States has no such law leaving Adelson and his minions free to post any outlandish claims they wish regardless of the facts.

Online gambling has attracted more wealthy supporters than opponents. While Adelson is known for spending tens of millions on lost causes like 2012’s Romney campaign other billionaires have profited from online gambling. George Soros, John Paulson and Leon Cooperman are among the investors in Caesar’s Acquisition Company. Other opponents include the American Gaming Association. In the past the AGA was once on Adelson’s side but changed its policies a few years ago. AGA head Geoff Freeman said he had enlisted the Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager “to work on grassroots initiatives.”

The addition of Messina marks a recognition that the fight for legal regulated online gambling needs to take place on a state level. For years the AGA tried to lobby federal legislators but failed to obtain the desired results.  Freeman said the AGA is “becoming a more proactive group” which is concerned “less about legislation and more about defining the image of this industry, not in just Washington but in the states as well.” In 2014 about a dozen states are expected to take up the issue of online gambling making the AGA’s work more important than ever.