Sheldon Adelson

The Sheldon Adelson Saga Revisited, Part 2: Poker-World Pushback

adelsonAs was mentioned in passing last time out, the online poker world’s been in a tizzy since LV Sands and Venetian bigwig Sheldon Adelson crapped all over it in a pair of major interviews last week.  Responses to Adelson’s shameless grandstand play have ranged from thoughtful to ludicrous.  Our previous post dealt with what was surely the worst of the batch, a call for PhotoShopped images of Adelson, asked for by Poker Players Alliance VP Rich Muny on the 2+2 forums, but this time out we’ll go upscale and offer some of the responses that exhibit coherent thought.

Some of the funniest of all of Adelson’s comments had to do with poker being a game entirely of luck (no skill whatsoever).  But people have been saying similar stupid things for decades.  Back in the case of Billy Baxter v. United States, when the US refused to recognize Baxter’s card-playing skill as a means of generating professional income, the appellate judge who ruled in favor of Baxter laughed at US attorneys, saying, “I find the government’s argument to be ludicrous. I just wish you had some money and could sit down with Mr. Baxter and play some poker.”

Adelson is every bit as self-serving.  A few highlights:

Over at Business Insider and pokerfuse, Cardschat owner Nick Kisberg checked in with an impassioned and heartfelt response to Adelson’s moralistic profiteering.  Kisberg’s open letter to Adelson demonstrated some real research, with Kisberg going back to earlier comments by Adelson on both online gambling and other matters to show Adelson as the hypocritical, craven old man he really is.

If there were any problems with Kisberg’s long-winded response, fuse commenter Bill Rini focused in on them.  Rini, a poker-industry veteran and the longtime author of Bill’s Poker Blog, a worthy occasional visit for any poker fan, correctly noted that true or not, Kisberg’s screed amounted to preaching the choir, being unlikely to change the minds of Adelson or like-minded people.

Instead, Rini, suggested that poker people and sites continue to stake out the moral high ground by acting responsibly and professionally, making sure that things such as through safeguards against underage and problem gambling are in place (and effective), and threby put the lie to the worst of Adelson’s claims.  Good stuff, all of it.

Here’s a good piece from Tuscaloosa Johnny Kampis detailing much of the hypocrisy in Adelson’s two interviews.  Kampis brings up Adelson’s recurring problems in Macau, where Adelson himself makes most of his money.  A few people have also brought up the curoius case of Adelson’s Spanish casino investment, where Adelson and friends have lobbied hard to get an exemption to Spain’ ban on smoking in such public places.  Adelson speaks of the “cancer” the online gambling is, but conveniently overlooks how much real cancer he’s adding to the world by seeking to allow smoking in his Spanish casino.  Nope, no hypocrisy there.

Over at QuadJacks, OnlinePokerReport’s Chris Grove chimed in with an interesting tangent: Poker people shouldn’t be responding to Adelson.  Grove excerpted his own QJ piece in a followup at OPR, so we’ll borrow that outtake as well:

Online gambling is fundamentally different than land-based gambling. And it’s a new phenomenon to most of the mainstream. That invites a fear of the unknown that requires a disproportionate response from regulators and the marketplace to overcome.

Adelson is playing on that fear. The only response is for poker advocates to demand that regulators require – and the market delivers – comprehensive, intuitively airtight solutions to these fundamental issues.

Again, this is a nice thought, an interesting tangent, but not quite true north.  The secret flaw that Grove’s noble thought misses is that in not responding, the online poker world thus risks forfeiting the mainstream “high ground” to Adelson, and putting themselves further behind the moralistic 8-ball — not that moral, breast-beating types would ever be caught within 30 paces of a billards table, you understand.

I like Grove’s tangent, but I don’t think it’ll work here.  Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that you need to roll up your sleeves and get dirty, and I can look back at my own years of poker writing and say — and that with more of than a little bit of pride — I’ve never been afraid of that.

Some mainstream outlets have picked up on the poker backlash against Adelson, including the above-linked piece at ABC News.  That’s not a bad mainstream pickup at all, though one has to be a realist: If you understand the nature of revenue per square foot of casino property, than it wouldn’t be surprising at all to learn that Adelson would love to trim back the area currently dedicated to the Venetian’s very nice poker room, probably ramming in a couple hundred more slot machines in its place.  Adelson is exactly that venal, don’t forget.

I won’t play poker at the Venetian any more, whereas on my previous trips there, I always stopped in at least once or twice.  (Hi, Kathy!)  But until Adelson recants, I just can’t award the Venetian any of my meager dollars.  I vote with my feet and my pocketbook.


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