Another Andy Abboud Flubfest: Does Adelson Yank Him From Media Point?
This week’s performance at the 2014 iGaming North America Conference by Las Vegas Sands Corporation Vice President of Government Relations, Andy Abboud, might have been shaky enough for billionaire political puppeteer Sheldon Adelson to give a final yank on Abboud’s strings and replace Abboud with a spokesman more knowledgeable on online gambling matters.
While Adelson, the ultra-rich CEO of Las Vegas Sands, has shown a willingness to continue his free-spending in the pursuit of lost political causes, Abboud has now gone two-for-two into turning important showcases for Adelson’s attacks on online poker and online gambling into personal and corporate embarrassments for Abboud, Adelson and the hypocritical Las Vegas Sands casino empire.
One would have thought Abboud would have been better prepared following his original embarrassment before a US Congressional subcommittee looking at the future of online gaming, which included the spectacle of Abboud being publicly excoriated for his hypocritical statements regarding LV Sands’ previous online-gambling history. But that didn’t happen in Las Vegas this week.
Instead, Abboud reverted to form within 45 minutes of debate, giving up a handful of early-session solid debating points that he’d made by resorting to cheap name-calling and admitting that he didn’t even understand many of the technical aspects being raised.
While numerous reports circulated about the Abboud-v-Mitch-Garber debate (Garber being the CEO of Caesars Interactive Entertainment, the best summary of Abboud’s latest gaffe-fest probably came from Nolan Dalla, the WSOP veteran and likely future Poker Hall of Fame member, who watched Wednesday’s latest Abboud debacle from the seats.
Dalla’s insights are valuable in that they can be both impassioned and objective, and what set Dalla off was Abboud’s strident claim that online-gambling technology wasn’t secure enough to combat such specters as underage gambling and money laundering, among the scare-tactic hot points that the Adelson-funded groups lovingly embrace.
Here’s how Dalla described the moment:
About midway into the debate, Mr. Abboud talked about a high-tech presentation he attended which was about online poker. The presentation provided information about industry safeguards, security, operations, support, and other facets of the details that go into running an online poker site. As Mr. Abboud was telling his story, on his own and without provocation, he admitted “they lost me,” causing astonishment among many in the crowd. Just to make it clear — the person debating about online poker’s impact, the person who cites concerns about underage gambling, addiction problems, money laundering, and so forth says “they lost me,” when the industry safeguards were explained to him? Unfortunately, the follow-up question no one got to ask was, “so then why are you up there telling this industry’s own experts about their business?” (Nolan Dalla, “Andy Abboud Melts Down at IGaming North America Conference”)
Thus is Abboud exposed as just another talking head, despite the slick packaging and big-money backing. Without stating so, Dalla marked it as the point in the debate wherein Abboud began his rapid dive descent into inanity and hypocrisy.
When Abboud made the silly claim that the Venetian and Las Vegas Sands “position (against online poker) has always been consistent,” Dalla correctly noted the lie, referring to the 2010 NAPT Venetian event (part of the PokerStars-sponsored North American Poker Tour) which put a ton of sponsorship and gambling dollars directly into the Venetian’s coffers.
And yet Dalla himself missed fully half of the lie, in not also referencing Abboud’s claims in that recent US House hearing. That prime moment brought US Rep. Peter King providing a slide show detailing Las Vegas Sands’ own online-gaming opportunities, available for real money throughout the state of Nevada. In that House hearing, which FlushDraw monitored, there was the sense that King might not have even brought up the slide show had it not been for Abboud’s blatant lies before that Congressional subcommitttee.
With the debate slipping away, Abboud then resorted to name-calling and attacking much of the poker world, blasting “the PPA and all their creepy Twitter followers” as part of his hopes of buttressing Las Vegas Sands’ latest stomp-the-opposition movement. If there was any doubt that this Adelson-led attack on online poker is anything but a dollars-vs.-sense showdown, that uttering should have dispensed with it. Abboud’s unfortunate (but bought and paid for) remark was quickly distributed across social media by at least a dozen of those creepy Twitter users, who were part of the 500 or so people in attendance.
For all of Abboud’s painful statements, Garber himself could have done better. There were several spots in the debate where he could have lived up to his side of the debate and adhered to the pro-online gambling position he was supposed to be defending. Instead, he found moments to buddy up to Abboud when it came to denouncing “bad actors” — a reference to PokerStars, and that company’s efforts to re-enter the US scene, first in New Jersey and now, according to a few rumors, in California.
As a WSOP/Caesars employee himself, Dalla couldn’t really call out Garber for his own shortfalls during the debate, but Garber’s own comments show that the entire US casino industry remains deathly afraid of PokerStars, with its massive consumer following and advanced technical capabilities. Garber also ignored the ugly fact that his own hatred of Stars was cultivated during his years as PartyGaming’s CEO, and PartyGaming, prior to the 2006 enactment of the UIGEA, was significantly more of a “bad actor” than Stars.
For all the vitriol and sound bites, however, the tableau is still being painted. Sheldon Adelson is continuing his current effort of purchasing politicians in an effort to pass some form of a federal i-gaming ban, and for now — depending on how laughable these performances continue to be — Andy Abboud keeps getting trotted out there to try and give Adelson’s efforts some some — any — sort of rational basis other than financial greed. So far, that Abboud effort has been an abject failure.