Internet Gaming Not a Sure Thing; Adelson At It Again; Fresh Eyes Probe Winston Case

 

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Internet gaming has allure, but not yet business return
by Phil Hevener
www.gamingtoday.com

The scent of change hangs in the air as creative thinkers continue looking for Internet gaming opportunities that will eventually include a lot more than poker.

It’s true the business has so far not lived up to what looked like its early promise as a hot spot of profitable possibilities as Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware put the first U.S. systems in operation.

So it’s easy to understand why Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson have rolled their eyes, shrugging off questions about their interests in the business. They are, after all, nursing multi-billion-dollar revenue streams generated by their respective land-based resorts. Wynn may soon be building in Boston. And then there is Japan to think about.

What do they want with do-it-from-home poker games struggling under the burden of federal restrictions that conflict with state approvals?

Adelson, if we accept his comments at face value, also has a concern with the degree to which poor people might be sucked into gambling addictions, and what about all the pre-pubescent youngsters with easy access to mommy and daddy’s credit cards.

Adelson’s comments might have been greeted with less cynicism if instead of committing millions to fighting expansion at every turn across the U.S. he had merely followed MGM CEO Jim Murren’s lead and said Internet gaming does not yet offer business opportunities significant enough to interest his company.

But for the time being, Wynn and Adelson will leave the field to Caesars, Boyd and a handful of others such as MGM who have linked themselves to a combination of real money gaming and social media websites.

Wynn and Adelson made their positions clear during remarks at last week’s Global Gaming Expo. More casinos: good. More Internet gaming: not so good. They said it all with the sounds of confidence that only a couple billionaires can project.

What neither said much about is the fact the worldwide web and a lot of still-under-development opportunities are not going away. Lawmakers, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers riding on the wings of new technology are finding ways to give consumers what they want.

What they want is entertainment and gaming with new looks.

There are already opportunities for a variety of appetites and the ideas that have been tested and developed in Las Vegas before being exported to the rest of the world. We’ll know more about the future of expanded sports betting this week.

The galaxy of gaming and entertainment is being reshaped in ways that seemed unlikely not so many years ago. Internet gaming will have its role in the changing scheme of things even if it takes longer than expected to clear away some of the barriers.

Jack Binion remembers when watching a poker game was as exciting as watching grass grow – unless one of the players owed you money, but the tiny cameras that let home television viewers know what each player was holding quickly turned poker into a booming business.

And the beat goes on, so to speak.

“A Las Vegas visitor would have laughed in your face 20-30 years ago if you had told him he might one day be standing in line at one of the big new nightclubs on the Strip looking for the chance to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on an ordinary bottle of vodka or wine.”

This from an industry veteran with deep-pocketed friends who are looking for investment opportunities in the club business.

“The process of change is ongoing,” he said, “The challenge is to get out in front and get your arms around a good opportunity five minutes before whoever might be right behind you.”

And for no particular reason I was suddenly remembering a long ago conversation with the late Jay Sarno who said, “The measure of a good idea is how easily it can be imitated or not imitated by somebody else.”

Momentum is definitely on the side of continued expansion – and that includes the Internet – even if Adelson continues battling it at every turn.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at PhilHevener@GamingToday.com.

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Sheldon Adelson throws rocks in glass houses
By: Steven Stradbrooke – calvinayre.com
Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson (pictured) used last week’s Global Gaming Expo spotlight to repeat his oft-stated claim that online gambling companies have no power to prevent underage players from blowing their college funds. Despite reams of evidence that online companies know their customers far better than brick-and-mortar casinos, Adelson maintained that “when you’re on the internet, you cannot know your customer.”

Adelson’s view got a big boost last week in Belgium, where new outlet Nieuwsblad reported that an unidentified 15-year-old Antwerp boy had spent €37k of his mother’s money via the online strategy free-play app Game of War: Fire Age. Mom had given her boy her credit card info because she wanted to purchase some eBooks to take on a trip but needed his help navigating the newfangled technology. The boy linked the credit card data to his iTunes account and went back to playing his online strategy game.

The boy claims not to have understood that the countless number of in-app purchases he made represented real money. There’s a chance the boy’s mom won’t have to sell her son’s kidney to pay off her credit card, as Apple has previously agreed to wipe the slate clean in instances similar to this in the UK and also settled a US class action lawsuit brought by angry parents earlier this year.

The boy’s tale of woe was reported just as the Belgian Gaming Commission sought permission to bring social gaming under its mandate in order to protect youth from similar chicanery, so we’re only half-convinced this brouhaha actually brouhaha’d, but don’t let our cynical selves sway your opinion.

TRICK AND MORTAR
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania gaming regulators have fined the operators of the SugarHouse Casino in Philadephia $20k for allowing underage gamblers to access their casino floor earlier this year. You must be 21 years or older to gamble in Pennsylvania but a 19-year-old used a fake ID to get past a doorman, then was challenged by a blackjack dealer, only to have a supervisor overrule the dealer and let the kid go on to lose $60 before a pit manager stopped the party.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board also suspended the CEO of the Valley Forge Casino Resort for 15 days for “recklessly” allowing two underage females onto the casino floor back in May 2013. Casino boss Michael Bowman admitted waving off a security guard who’d attempted to verify the ages of the two 20-year-old ladies. Bowman claimed he thought the girls were at least 30, which is closer to their combined age, but, you know… math, right?

Adelson’s company owns the state’s leading casino, Sands Bethlehem, which also leads its competitors in number of underage gambling incidents. Sheldon would prefer you to dismiss these types of incidents as aberrations, while simultaneously expecting you to view the Belgian kid’s experience as standard operating procedure.

The truth is that all defense systems are based on attrition, in that a certain percentage of the attacking force will ultimately overcome whatever barriers you put in their path. The trick is to learn from these types of incidents, upgrade your defenses accordingly and for God’s sake stop throwing rocks around that glass house in which you live.

This is a reprint from calvinayre.com.

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FSU looks to third party to rule in Jameis Winston case
by Rachel Axon, USA TODAY Sports

A decision on whether Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was responsible for code of conduct violations in relation to an alleged sexual assault in December 2012 will be made by someone outside of the university, a lawyer for the woman who accused Winston confirmed Friday night.

John Clune, who represents the former FSU student who said Winston raped her, confirmed FSU will hold an investigative hearing in the case.

Clune received a copy of a letter FSU sent to Winston on Friday informing him that a hearing would be held by a neutral third party.

“We know nothing about what the hearing process is going to be, the right to call witnesses, if there’s going to be witnesses called or if it’s going to be this third party interviewing all the people,” said Clune. “We just have no details of what this is going to look like.”

David Cornwell, an attorney advising Winston, first tweeted about the change in the case on Friday.

“FSU creates new procedures 2 investigate the false allegations. Declines to charge Jameis w/ a violation of Code of Student Conduct.#1ststep,” he wrote.

Cornwell did not immediately return phone and email messages from USA TODAY Sports.

Clune said the new process will allow the third party to conduct the investigation and determine if the Student Conduct Code has been violated and, if that party finds Winston responsible of sexual misconduct, determine a sanction.

FSU’s decision to effectively outsource the hearing comes as attorneys for Winston and the woman have raised concerns about the fairness of any school proceeding following nearly a year of intense news media coverage and a federal investigation into whether the school is in compliance with Title IX.

“On the one hand, it addresses some concerns,” said Clune. “On the other hand, it’s a highly unusual process. So we just need to know a lot more.”

While Clune said he didn’t know when the hearing would take place, he said the letter indicates Winston must respond to the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities within five class days.

“The third party is going to do everything and the only really unusual part and they’re just going to skip the charging and go straight to the hearing,” Clune said.

A spokeswoman for Florida State did not immediately return a message from USA TODAY Sports on Friday night.

Until Friday, the school had cited federal privacy laws for not commenting on the case. Earlier in the day, it released a letter to supporters outlining its actions since the woman first reported the alleged assault to FSU police on Dec. 7, 2012.

No criminal charges were filed after an investigation by the state attorney’s office in November and December 2013.

Winston went on to win the Heisman Trophy and lead FSU to a BCS national championship and unbeaten season. The Seminoles remain No. 1 in the Amway Coaches Poll and remain unbeaten despite Winston serving a one-game suspension in September for shouting an obscene phrase that is derogatory toward women on campus.

Winston could face discipline ranging from a verbal reprimand to expulsion if he is found responsible, a decision that would be made based on a “preponderance of evidence.”

Clune and Baine Kerr, Title IX attorneys for the woman have pushed for a school investigation for months. FSU officials interviewed their client, who left the school in November, for the first time in early August.

But in a letter to FSU in September, Cornwell argued the school’s investigation was untimely and “that the investigation is really not an investigation.” Cornwell told USA TODAY Sports in September that he expected the process to conclude with a finding of no wrongdoing by Winston.

FSU remains under investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights for its handling of sexual harassment and violence under Title IX. The 1972 law considers those forms of discrimination prohibited by the law, and schools are obligated to investigate sexual assaults.

The woman filed a complaint with OCR in the spring, and the department opened an investigation in April.

 

 

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