In an op-ed article in the Sacramento Bee over the weekend, writer Dan Morain revealed some startling statistics and information on the current moves in the legislature to bring legalised online poker action to California.
But opposing the concept of legalised online poker in general, and the involvement of Pokerstars in particular, is the big-bucks campaign of billionaire land gambling mogul Sheldon Adelson, who recently sent his emissary Andy Abboud with a well-worn list of anti-online gambling talking points to a state leglisative hearing (see previous reports).
The Isle of Man-based Pokerstars is very much a part of the debate in California, having formed an alliance with powerful Indian tribes and land-based card rooms in the state in the hope of gaining a foothold in the legalised market that could evolve.
The conflicting interests of the two giants are likely to result in more fireworks in California, with Morain pointing out that Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. spent $175,000 over the past six months alone on a single high-end lobbying firm in Sacramento, Mercury Public Affairs, and much more in Washington, D.C.
Adelson is also funding the California efforts of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, and has promised to spend “whatever it takes” to kill off internet gambling.
Morain reports that Adelson’s consultants believe voters are predisposed to oppose online gambling, and they therefore plan to start distributing advertisements in California this week, first on the Internet and later on cable and broadcast TV.
These are likely to deploy the now notorious scare tactics of showing an under-age gambler finding workarounds to go online gambling, and a more direct attack on Pokerstars, Morain claims, quoting from an upcoming ad. that apparently puts forward the view:
“If they get their way, gambling will be available in every home, every bedroom, every dorm room, on every phone, tablet and computer everywhere, 24-7. Targeting families, kids, the elderly.”
Morain reveals that throwing money at lobbyists is not the sole prerogative of Adelson’s associates; he says that in April this year alone, gambling interests, mostly casino-owning tribes, donated $426,000 to the two major political parties, incumbent legislators and candidates.
Of that, $139,000 went to members of the California Assembly and Senate governmental organisation committees, which have jurisdiction over gambling bills.