Friday, May 23, 2014

BREAKING: Venetian to Install “Destitute Detectors”

New "Destitute Detectors" in south wing of the Venetian Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas
In a bold move one industry wag suggested was like, “putting your money where your mouth is, instead of other peoples’ mouths,” CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation Sheldon Adelson announced the installation of “Destitute Detectors TM” in the lobbies of his two Las Vegas casinos, The Venetian and the Palazzo.  The new devices (see photo) are based on modern technology than can identify the gross-household-income of any potential patron to the casino, similar to airport detectors sensing potential weaponry.

Adelson has said before that, ”[You have] under-age, of age, college students that owe plenty of money, unfortunate people, working-class people, middle-class people that will be easily exploited by, and easily incentivized to go…gamble.”  Long a champion of the poor, the new machines are set to approximately $50,000 GHI, and any player who fails to make that limit will be barred from entering. "It will be easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for someone who is poor to enter the Venetian."

At the unveiling, reporters asked exactly how the devices worked.  Adelson said that he did not know about the technology, so he could not address the issue.  When asked if the detectors could be set for other criteria, such as underage players, he murmured something about a pilot program at his Bethlehem (PA) Sands casino, then suffered a coughing fit, and walked away.

A spokesperson for the American Gaming Association was taken by surprise at the announcement.  “This is not an issue we can lead on,” said the unnamed spokesperson, adding that there was no consensus among the AGA’s members.  “Therefore, we’re both appalled and delighted at the same time.”

This version of the "Destitute Detector" didn't float.
It was learned just before this article went to press that a consideration to extend the “Destitute Detectors TM” to all levels of the Venetian was dropped (see photo) in lieu of 25% price hike in retail, gondola rides, and gelato.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

On Activism

So here I am on a Monday evening talking on the radio with three people who just a few short months ago I didn’t even know.  OK, I knew Rich Muny, VP of Poker Players Alliance and host of Poker Advocacy (produced by OnTilt Radio, the show I was on) by name only, as I had been getting the monthly PPA email newsletter and update for a couple of years.  I became Facebook friends with Mike Qualley, PPA’s state Director in Minnesota after his radio debate with Annette Meeks of the Freedom Foundation of Minnesota (Mike ably defended our right to play online).  And Lori Kolstad is everywhere online – I’m not certain when we became friends (but I know that having me on Poker Advocacy had to be her idea…I just know it).

How’d I get here?

My first post of February was a rant against Sheldon Adelson, as he had just unveiled his plan to destroy the world fight online gambling with his new coalition.  It turned out to be the first of many against Sheldon and others on the dark side.  As I explained on the radio show last night, I had been somewhat patient in the battle to make online poker safe, regulated, and legal…again…ever since Black Friday.  I despaired at the Feds doing anything constructive, but gained hope as the states took matters in hand.  First Nevada, then New Jersey and Delaware established online poker, and more states were lining up to join them

Then Sheldon got his game on, and I got pissed.

In the last 3 ½ months more than 50% of my posts have been about the online poker issue.  I hardly thought I was some sort of activist, but…I guess I am.  I have learned more about the issues, the players, and the promise.  I put my money where my mouth was and joined the PPA (it’s $15 bucks, and most of you drop that in beer money or in the first three hands.  C’mon, go join if you haven’t).  And I went on the radio and opined.

And I will continue to do so (only at a slower pace, as tourist season starts on Thursday).  One thing I hope to continue to do is to educate those who are not with us, but can be influential in our cause.  Let me explain.  There are three groups in this issue:

US – just about everyone who plays poker is on our side.  I know there are a few who make snide comments and seem to be against the idea of online poker, but they are few and far between.  And most get Christmas cards from James and Cheri.

THEM – Sheldon and his minions.  This includes the bought politicians like Lindsey Graham, the former politicians like Willie Brown, and others who are a bit more sincere about their opposition to online gambling, like Mike Qualley’s old foe.  Meeks doesn’t just dislike online gambling, she doesn’t like ALL gambling.  At least she’s consistent.

THE DK’S* – DK is market research speak for “Don’t Know.”  The DK’S are the ones we need to reach and teach.  They’re the ones who know little about the issue, perhaps little to nothing about gambling, and can be our best hope in this battle.  We’re not going to change anyone in the THEM camp – their minds are made up (thanks to some extra “currency” from Sheldon).  But we can change the “Don’t Know” group to “Won’t NO” in that they may not want to be involved with online poker, but they won’t’ stand in our way.  They’ll learn and understand that the only way to provide a safe environment for online poker is to regulate it.  People who want to gamble are gonna gamble – if the states regulate it, they can provide the oversight, the security, the consumer protection – and also gain the financial benefit in the fees/taxes from the poker providers.

Prohibition has been tried, and failed.  It’s NOT the way to go.  People need to be reminded of this.  People need to know that the scare tactics of Adelson and his Coalition are just that – scare tactics.  They need to know it’s the billions of a casino owner who is financing the anti-online crowd, getting them to do his dirty work in what amounts to stopping competition – and trying to do it in the name of “legislation” while trying to hide behind the cries of “Terrorism,” “Jobs,” and “Think of the Children.”  Then think of the countless times Adelson’s casino in Pennsylvania has been fined for underage gambling.

It’s a task I am up to.  Are you with me?  Start educating!

PS - I will post a link to the podcast of the Poker Advocacy program that Rich, Lori, Mike and I were on as soon as I have it, just so some of you
can remember what the hell I sounded like on the radio.  I didn't suck too ba

* I just know the folks at Fairleigh Dickinson** are gonna see this and think I’m talking about them again.  NO, I am not.
** BTW, I corrected my spelling in previous posts.  I’m sorry – I have known two people in the past with the last name of Dickenson (with an e, not an i) and I just typed it without thinking.  Full disclosure: I have not known anyone named Fairleigh.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Update: FDU Study, Brown vs. California

In my last post, I mentioned that I asked the folks at the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll if they’d run an additional “crosstab” for me in the hopes of uncovering information about those who favor online gambling.  I said:
The one thing I’d like to see that wasn’t included in the study’s results was a crosstab of awareness with being in favor or opposing the issue of online gambling.  My guess is that more awareness of the issue is a negative (for us) as it means individuals are more likely to be against the idea.   

Before the results, a word of thanks to Krista Jenkins of FDU for running the crosstab, and a word of apology regarding the title of my last post in question.  Before releasing the information, Krista asked, When I send will you consider not calling us dicks?”  Even though I used the “D” word I wasn’t calling anyone a dick (except Sheldon Adelson, of course), and for the record, the folks at FDU are the “Knights.” 

My purpose was to draw attention the fact that FDU refers to the results of the study using the VICE word (as in “US Voters pick a vice”). While the term was not used while obtaining respondents’ opinions (I would have gone ballistic then), it is used in the results, and the word VICE has many negative, biased connotations.  It should be noted that one person’s vice may be another’s profession (and I refer to poker, not that other thing).  Perhaps a better choice of words can be used for everyone next time? 

Now, on to the results.

As I mentioned, Krista ran a cross tab of the results of these two questions:
Do you favor or oppose allowing casinos to run online gambling for people in their states? (the horizontal)
There has been movement by some states to make it legal for casinos to provide on-line, or internet, gambling for its residents. Have much have you heard or read about this? (the vertical)
Here’s the table (edited a bit for clarity):

A lot
Just a little
Nothing at all
Don’t Know

The results may not be statistically significant (I don’t have the raw data to run tests) and no doubt there might be other, better explanations of the results.  In my last post I noted that age was a strong determinant in favoring online gambling (youngsters = YAY! Oldsters = No!) but those aged 18-29 were also the ones LEAST LIKELY to have heard much about the issue.  In reading the results above, we see a SLIGHT uptick for being in favor of legalizing online gambling for those who have heard more about the issue.  This is a GOOD thing.

I mentioned before that education is the key.  In order for online poker to be a reality, we have to overcome lingering stereotypes about gambling (it’s a VICE) AND Adelson’s money and all of the babble his minions put out.  Which brings me to the latest developments in California.

Willie Brown’s defection* from “I’m a lobbyist for Native American tribes interested in online gambling” to “I am one of Sheldon’s minions” is the clearest example yet of how money talks.  It seems Brown has 175,000 reasons to change his views, though he only spoke of one, vaguely:  “I have since learned about some of the tactics used by online gambling companies to lure young people.”  But he never articulates what those tactics are.  And with good reason.

This is where our educational efforts need to hit hardest.  Adelson and his coalition and the various purchased-politicians and past-pollys make grandiose statements about money laundering and underage gambling and the like, but rarely do they explain HOW this is all supposed to occur**.  Because they haven’t the foggiest.  Remember the Coalition’s “Don’t Bet on it” ad?  The kid obtains his Dad’s online login information.  THAT’S how he gambles - THAT’S the problem, not the online gaming.  Does Adelson and his group expect to close down every type of business where problems might occur if a family member steals some other family member’s online account?  You’d have to close down the entire frickin’ Internet.

And with word that California tribes are moving ever closer to making online poker a reality, we can see that education works.  Last month’s hearings were powerful in that positive messages on online poker’s appeal (regulation, consumer safety, etc.) were well received, and the prattle of Adelson’s henchman Andy Abboud denounced.

Call them out.  Make them explain.  Move past the buzzwords and the cliché’s and the stereotypes and the scary words and the fear.  Articulate reality.  Make them do the same.  If we do, they lose.

* Willie Brown’s defection - doesn’t that make a great name for a band?  “Tonight on stage, The Rhythm Kings, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Willie Brown’s Defection - doors open at 8pm.”

** James Thackston’s nonsense has been a case where they tried to make the case and failed, big time.  Best takedowns are here and here.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Is There Something Good in the Fair-Dick Poll?* Yes!

Of course, I am referring to the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll that was conducted recently and has been in the news due to its comparison of dope vs. poker.  You’ve no doubt heard about it because the “major finding” was that respondents were almost twice as likely (50% to 27%) to favor legalization of marijuana (by the states) as they are to favor legalization of online gambling (again, by the states).  This was a national poll of over 1000 respondents in late April of this year, a little after panels in a few states discussed the online gaming issue but before the currently national blowback of Adelson’s attempts to buy legislation on the national level.

As Steve Ruddock reported, the 27% in favor is fairly static since 2010 (previous polls).  Worse, the number of respondents who oppose online gaming is 63%, more than twice those in favor, and knowledge of the issue was also bleak, especially when compared to knowledge of the pot issue.

I agree with much of Steve’s analysis.  Asking about online gambling is different than asking about online poker, and I also like the idea that the asking of “favor/oppose” be extended to a more-standard research template of:
  • Strongly oppose
  • Oppose somewhat
  • Favor somewhat
  • Strongly favor

However, I am a bit more optimistic about the results than many, partly because I see patterns.  Look at the two crosstabs for the legalization questions with age:

Do you favor or oppose allowing casinos to run online gambling for people in their states?


Do you favor or oppose legalizing of small quantities of marijuana for recreational use?


In both cases, it’s us old-fogeys who are most likely to be opposed to gambling and pot.  It’s the youngsters who are more likely to be in favor.  Where have we seen this pattern before?

Gay marriage.

You may not be old enough to remember, but…these same patterns emerged years ago when discussing the idea of legalizing marriage for everyone.  Years ago, the old folks considered marriage between a man and a woman and…that’s it.  Youngsters had other ideas.  Of course, as time goes by, youngsters get older and old folks cease to exist, and the overall percentages change, tilt, until finally…and here we are.  More states recognize gay marriage, and except for the occasional bump in the road (sorry, Michael Sam), society is seeing marriage in a new light.  One we saw coming years ago.

Legalizing recreational marijuana has a longer history, like gay marriage, but it too is changing, slowly (and it’s us old folks who…pufffffffff…have the history).  Online gaming is a mere babe in the woods, so (unfortunately), it may take more time.  I might cease to exist by the time it becomes a reality again.

Then again, online poker has a slightly different history in that it WAS “legal” before, so maybe it won’t take as long as I fear.  Oh, wait, so was cannabis.

Another aspect of this survey I hold out hope for is the awareness factor.  As Ruddock commented, it was dismal…

There has been movement by some states to make it legal for casinos to provide on-line, or internet, gambling for its residents. Have much have you heard or read about this…?
A lot
Just a little
Nothing at all

In this question, it was the younger demos that were slightly less likely to have heard/read about the issue (there was virtually NO difference in the age demos on the awareness of the marijuana issue).  The one thing I’d like to see that wasn’t included in the study’s results was a crosstab of awareness with being in favor or opposing the issue of online gambling.  My guess is that more awareness of the issue is a negative (for us) as it means individuals are more likely to be against the idea.  Of course, if the ONLY thing they’ve heard about it is the shrieking of Adelson’s minions, then that makes some sense.  I’ve asked the folks at FDU if they’d run this very crosstab for me (if they haven’t already done it internally), and if I get a response, I’ll post an update.

For now, it’s obvious we still have our work cut out for us.  If we fight, we can win. 

If not, we can just go get high.

* I refer to the Fairleigh Dickenson PublicMind poll as the Fair-Dick Poll because (a) I am mindful about Twitter’s 140 character restrictions, and (b) because they refer to it as a “vice” poll which is kinda slanted, really, so I’m calling them Fair-Dick in retaliation.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Is Sheldon Senile?

Hey you kids - get off my casino!
I’m serious.  Years ago, I used to work in a retirement home.  I got to see my share of individuals who were lucid one moment, and then “kinda goofy” the next.  Sometimes they’d be upbeat and positive and speak in complete sentences, and other times they’d babble, not really able to collect their thoughts even if you gave them a basket.

Two recent Adelson spots on Bloomberg (here and here) give rise to my thoughts that serious senility is kicking in.  We in the poker-activist community consider him dangerous because he has a buttload of money (he’s 8th richest person in the WORLD according to Forbes).  I say he’s also dangerous because of his ideas (and his money).  Speaking of money, Senator Harry Reid defended Adelson today, saying that it’s not about the money, but, “He's in it because he has certain ideological views."

And those views are nuts.  Take this statement from Shelly:
“There’s no compelling reason to put a casino in everybody’s pocket.”

WTF?  What does that even mean?  Does one NEED a reason?  Is that really for HIM to say?  And then he follows up that statement with this:
”[You have] under-age, of age, college students that owe plenty of money, unfortunate people, working-class people, middle-class people that will be easily exploited by, and easily incentivized to go on the internet and gamble.  For what?”

Again…what the hell does that even mean?  I interpret this (and some other things he said) to mean he only wants to make money off people who can afford to gamble.  Just like he’s doing now.  Oh, here he is, explaining…
”I want to make money from people that can afford it.  I can't tell over the internet who is underage.  I can't tell who had financial difficulties.  I can't tell who is gaming responsibly.  I can't tell is money is being laundered.  I CAN in the casinos.”

Sure.  I remember being stopped at the door of the Venetian, where they did a credit check on me (because I looked middle-class, which I am…barely).  I must have passed muster, because I went into the casino where I found no clocks and free drinks, and offers to join their “Club Grazie Players Club.”  Incentives and exploitation are OK if you can afford it, of course.  Though I never did find out what the “For what?” was here.

OK, enough sarcasm.  Obviously Shelly doesn't follow his own advice, which makes him a hypocrite, but we all already knew that.  When he talks about his online ban battle, he just sounds like someone trying to throw everything on the wall, hoping that something sticks.  So far, the “money laundering” aspect has been shot full of holes, and the “underage gambling” issue is mostly moot, so, what else does he have?


The Washington Post noted that he’s already going into the individual states to buy politicians do battle.  There are three very populous states that may move forward in the near future - California (likely), Pennsylvania (maybe - looking better), and New York (meh).  Here is where the battle for online poker will be won or lost.

Betty White is older than Sheldon, and she has it together far better than he:

Keep up the fight - don’t let a senile old man beat us!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Tossing Jim Thackston Under the CheriJacobus

It’s been a busy 24 hours, to say the least.  The anti-online forces have suffered a tremendous body blow, and everyone seems to be talking about it.  Me, too.  This post is as much as a personal reminder sheet as it is commentary, as there’s been so much written and said, so fast.  So let’s begin (everything has a link – don’t panic).

It all started (for me) with a Facebook post from PPA’s VP Rich Muny on April 28th – OK, that’s more than 24 hours ago, but this was the catalyst of it all.  Muny pointed out some of Jim Thackston’s emails on Internet Gaming security to casino companies like Harrah’s (now Caesar’s) read more like extortion notes than helpful advice.  Muny points out that Thackston’s interest went from do-gooder pro-online poker to anti-online gloom and doom for financial reasons – his own.  This was followed up by a second Facebook post from Muny pointing out that one of Thackston’s companies - CONCIERGE HOLDINGS, INC. – has as an officer one Bill Byers, the same Bill Byers Thackston and political pundit/anti-gambling foe Cheri Jacobus point to as having a demo that shows (on play money sites) that it might be possible to launder money through online poker.

In reading the link to CONCIERGE, I saw that the VP was Hilbert Shirey.  Having the unusual last name of Exinger, I am one to remember others with unusual names.  And somewhere in the back of my mind I remembered Shirey having poker connections, so I “wiki’d” his name – and find that Dewey Tomko is his neighbor (they live in the same city) and is a longtime golf partner (according to Wiki).  The same Dewey Tomko that supposedly penned an anti-online screed/editorial – with Bill Byers.  So I passed this info on to Muny, and he updated his post.

Then Nolan Dalla got involved, and we’re all thankful for that.  For he knows Tomko, and claimed that something smelled fishy.  And today, he wrote a blast of an article that recalls his last-night phone conversation with Tomko – the gist being that Tomko had NOTHING to do with the editorial (and a bunch of other stuff that makes it pretty clear that this is a position that he could not have taken).

From here, all hell has broken loose, and there are still more shoes to drop.

Writer Steve Ruddock, who initially called out Tomko for his stance, has courageously apologized.  Ruddock said he had initial reservations, and now says he “…was hoodwinked by a usually reliable media outlet.”  We’ll get to that “usually reliable media outlet” in a moment.  Others have jumped on the “bury Thackston/Byers/Jacobus” moment – Johnny G and Haley Hintze, to name two (both have been critical before, but hey, there’s blood in the water).  Finally, the folks at have been trying to get a response from the “usually reliable media outlet” – The Press of Atlantic City (who ran the original Byers/Tomko editorial) – to confirm/deny its authenticity.  From their article:
When we called and talked to Editorial Page Editor Jim Perskie at the Press of Atlantic City he indicated that an email of verification was sent back to both parties and that, via a Google search, they were who they said they were. Upon further pressing of how this op-ed came to be, we were stopped with: “I’ve got nothing for you.”

For the other side, Thackston stands by Tomko’s role, tweeting:
Jim Thackston ‏@pokerbank1729  10h (about Noon ET 5-5-14)
@Haley_Hintze @CheriJacobus @RichMuny @ACPressTopNews Mr. Tomko may have changed his mind but he certainly co-authored the op-ed.

Cheri Jacobus merely cites Thackston’s tweet as “proof” of the authenticity.  There are others who are trying to get to the bottom of all this (Ruddock, Dalla, and John Mehaffey).  There is bound to be plenty more in the days ahead, but, as Dalla summarized:
Someone is lying.  Someone is making things up.  Someone needs to be exposed as soon as possible and all those who have used any evidence or testimony from such an individual should be dismissed immediately as sources who are not credible.

And nowhere in all of this have I mentioned Sheldon Adelson’s name.  Ain’t that a bitch?

I’m sure it will come up soon.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Boycott the Venetian?

If you’re a live poker player or a online wannabe, you are no doubt aware that the man who owns the Venetian Hotel/Casino (and many other gaming properties) – Sheldon Adelson – is behind the recently formed Coalition to Stop Online Gambling, and the power (spelled m-o-n-e-y) behind the politicians launching anti-online-gambling legislation in the US House and Senate.  You may also be aware that there was a boycott of Adelson’s properties last year by individuals who either would like to see online poker legalized in the USA or think Sheldon’s full of shit, and there is talk of another boycott this year.

So, do you boycott, or not?

I’ve been involved in a couple of online forums where this subject has popped up, and it’s not as cut and dried as you might think.  Face it, ANYONE can CHOOSE to do or not to do ANYTHING for ANY reason.  If it pisses you off that Adelson is a hypocrite about this issue or it bugs you that a rich guy can buy legislation, then so be it, and do what you have to do.  I've always been a person of principle, even though it's cost me a job or two, potential customers, friends, etc. If I had plans to play in Vegas this year (I don't, so it's academic), I would avoid going to the Venetian.  It’s pretty easy for me to boycott in this case. 

But what about others who might be hurt by the boycott?  Some folks have said that Adelson will hardly feel the affect of a boycott of the poker room (he makes wads in every corner of the casino) and it would hurt dealers and other employees.  Heck, a slowdown might cause him to pull the poker room completely and put in high-stakes slots or something else that makes him even more money, so, the logic goes, a boycott would be counter-productive.

And I’d agree if the ONLY thing a boycott affects is ties to money.

Obviously, the idea of boycotting goes beyond finances.  It’s the principle of the thing.  The cause.  The idea.  The change.  And it does not happen if things happen as they always have.  A boycott can raise awareness, get people talking, get more people involved, cause pressure, cause change.

If NO ONE takes that FIRST step, nothing happens.  If a few begin to take a stand, then, that’s a start. Where it goes from there depends on everyone else.

I can easily say “boycott” because I won’t be playing anywhere this summer.  But you?  It’s your call.  Do what you believe in.  And in closing, here's something I posted on one of the Facebook forums (which is why it's in blue - gawd, I hope I'm not in violation of some privacy law or something...)
  • I have to admit that one of my personal boycotts is "effective" only in that it gets people talking - I've boycotted Wal-Mart for more than 20 years. People ask about it, and I tell them that the ONLY way that "the Wal-Mart syndrome" will stop gutting small town businesses is if EVERYONE STOPS SHOPPING THERE.  Eventually this will happen (maybe not everyone, but enough people will go elsewhere).  They’ll go elsewhere because they’re tired of Wal-Mart’s prices or shoddy quality or arrogant attitude or some other reason, but go elsewhere they will.  They always do.  Don't believe me? Ask Mr. Sears or Mr. Roebuck.  Things change.  People cause change.  One person at a time.