CSIG No Show for Poker Debate ; Christie and Adelson Accused of Blocking Poker Stars in Jersey


CSIG Representative Abboud Fails to Show for Online Gaming Debate with Poker Players’ Alliance
By Earl Burton

What was expected to be a scintillating debate between the two men at the helms of both sides of the ongoing debate over regulation of the online gaming and poker industry instead turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.

Currently in Washington, D. C., the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) opened up its four day meeting Thursday morning. One of the biggest gatherings of conservatives in the United States, the conference does run towards a particular vein of conservatism that promotes individual liberties and limited government. With this in mind, the CPAC organizers arranged for a forum discussion on Thursday afternoon that, had it gone the way it was supposed to, would have brought together the two sides that are battling over online gaming regulation.

The forum, called “A Debate on Internet Freedom and the 10th Amendment: Should Congress Shut Down State-Authorized Gambling Websites,” invited the Executive Director of the Poker Players’ Alliance, John Pappas, to participate on the panel. CPAC organizers invited the Vice President of Government Relations & Community Development for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation (LVSC) Andy Abboud, who has been the mouthpiece of anti-online gaming crusader Sheldon Adelson, to speak for the anti-online gaming faction. While Pappas was front and center when the forum was ready to begin, Abboud – nor any other members of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), Adelson’s anti-online gaming organization – wasn’t in attendance to debate the issue.

“I guess when the rubber meets the road, prohibition supporters realize they can’t back up their fear mongering public relations campaign with actual facts,” Pappas said in a statement released by the PPA. “I was looking forward to an open and fair debate on the future of online gaming and not just because the facts are on our side.”

Pappas went on to further state that this was an attempt by the anti-online gaming coalition to bypass any factual debate on the matter and simply try to push through a piece of legislation. “Before Congress votes on any legislation that would impose a broad prohibition, like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), I think American voters deserve to hear both sides clearly articulate how such a ban impacts consumers, states and the economy,” Pappas declared. “The fact that the primary RAWA supporters refused to join this debate, after significant effort by the organizers, tells me that they want their bill rubber-stamped instead of openly debated on the merits – a basic tenet of democracy.”

Rather than attend the largest meeting of conservatives in the U. S., CSIG has continued to produce slick videos that are replete with fear-mongering messages. The organization’s Facebook page often cites that “children may switch from free mobile gaming apps to real gambling opportunities” and that “people in the criminal world and terrorist world could get a benefit from” online gaming. They have also sent out several representatives to conservative-leaning media outlets; these media outlets have been pushing the CSIG message for the most part rather than questioning its motives and who in particular is driving the effort.

RAWA is an example of those motives. Essentially written by Adelson’s forces within the LVSC, the bill is an attempt to “reauthorize” the Wire Act of 1961 to cover online gaming when, in fact, the Wire Act only outlawed sports betting over telephone and telegraph lines and the internet wasn’t around that year. In effect, RAWA is an attempt by Adelson’s coalition to rewrite the law to ban online gaming and poker nationwide, even though gambling is one of the activities that has been left to the states to regulate.

RAWA is set to come to a House subcommittee hearing on March 5. Called to the fore by its sponsor, Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz, it is possible that the hearing will be one-sided, with pro-gaming forces left on the outside looking in as Abboud has his way with the subcommittee. As such, it would have been important for an open debate on the subject in an arena that has no biases.

Unfortunately, that has not occurred. As of late Thursday, no reason has been given by Abboud, the LVSC, the CSIG or any other organization as to why they did not appear for a free debate over the issue. It seems when they aren’t in control of the outlet, Adelson’s forces aren’t interested in an exposing of facts regarding online gaming and poker.

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xxProminent Business Website Accuses Christie, Adelson of Blocking PokerStars License in New Jersey
By Earl Burton

A prominent business website has come forward with something that many in the poker/gaming industry have assumed regarding Amaya Gaming’s efforts to license PokerStars in New Jersey in accusing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of blocking those efforts for his own political gain.

The website Businessinsider.com and writer Hunter Walker this afternoon went public with their information, indicating that Christie is persuading New Jersey’s Division of Gaming Enforcement – the agency that would license Amaya and PokerStars – to hold off on allowing the company to enter the Garden State’s online gaming industry. BusinessInsider.com reports that many in New Jersey, including State Senator Ray Lesniak (one of online gaming’s strongest proponents) and Bob McDevitt (the head of the Atlantic City union that represents casino employees), are now coming forward with statements that indicate Christie is behind the delay in letting Amaya and PokerStars into the state.

“Christie put a stop to it,” Lesniak straightforwardly said to Walker. “With a high degree of confidence, it’s apparent that’s exactly what happened…but I don’t think anyone’s going to go on the record to confirm it.” McDevitt echoed Lesniak’s comments in saying, “My impression was that PokerStars should have already been up and operating long before this point. My understanding is that it was the Attorney General’s office and the governor who are holding up the approvals.”

Others that Walker has spoken to – who have requested to remain anonymous due to the ongoing process of licensing – more bluntly put the blame at Christie’s door. “There’s no reason that the deal shouldn’t have gone through, but the government is holding it back,” one source stated. “I believe that politics has played a role in it,” Walker quotes another source. “There’s no question in my mind that Sheldon Adelson is the reason why this hasn’t moved forward, and that’s the only reason.”

The ties between Christie and Adelson are quite apparent and well-known by those in the gaming and political circles. Christie, who has been pondering a run for the office of President of the United States in 2016, has attempted to stay in the ‘good graces’ of Adelson, who allegedly contributed around $150 million to Republican Presidential candidates in 2012, by blocking online gaming from New Jersey in the recent past. Situations inside the state, including declining revenues in the ‘brick and mortar’ casinos and the loss of jobs, led Christie to allow for online gaming in February 2013 after explaining to Adelson that the New Jersey legislature would have overridden his veto to open up the state for online gaming. Adelson has admitted that Christie informed him of this fact in prior interviews.

In addition to discussion regarding New Jersey legislative processes, Christie has utilized his ties with Adelson for private purposes. Usage of Adelson’s private jet in 2012 for a trip to the Middle East, contributions to the Republican Governor’s Association (an organization that Christie heads) that have totaled $3.5 million and other gifts have been received by Christie from Adelson while in office. This has led to some questioning the ethics of Christie, including the possibility of a criminal probe by the New Jersey legislature.

Adelson has stated that, for the 2016 GOP campaign, he is looking to ‘back a horse’ that will win the White House instead of spreading his money around. Adelson has two points of emphasis in making his decision: a federal ban for online gaming that would prevent individual states from making their own decisions and supporting Israel in the Middle East. Christie would need that backing for a potential Presidential campaign and it has led him and other potential GOP nominees to kneel at Adelson’s feet on both accounts.

Over the past year Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and others have prostrated themselves for Adelson, with Graham leading Adelson’s fight to ban online gaming federally through his reintroduction of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) in the Senate today. Last week, Representative Jason Chaffetz led Adelson’ anti-online gaming drive in reintroducing RAWA in the House of Representatives and is also rumored to have spent last weekend at the Palazzo in Las Vegas; the Palazzo is owned by Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation.

At this time, the Christie Administration in New Jersey is refusing to respond to any questions regarding the ongoing licensing procedures for PokerStars or Christie’s ties with Adelson. Adelson’s spokespeople have also been silent on the issue after several requests. But it is plain to those in the gaming industry – as well as the political world and the general public – that Christie is blocking movement on the PokerStars licensing as a favor to Adelson and his continued campaign against online gaming and poker.

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