Monday, June 9, 2014

ADS Explained (Adelson Desperation Syndrome)

It’s not Friday so this isn’t sarcasm.  PPA Minnesota State Director Mike Qualley suggested it was time it was time for me to post something (on the most recent wacky happenings with Sheldon Adelson and his Venetian casino) and I had another blog post on a slightly different subject…and by some miracle found a way to combine them in a ground-breaking post that answers the question – is online poker going to be a legal reality in the United States again, or is it doomed?

The answer follows, and it involves statistics, not emotion.  This is a lengthy post (as it’s really two…two…two posts in one) but the stats will be simple.  And besides, it’s been a while since I posted, so it will be like making up for lost time.

When you’re an advocate for something, it’s sometimes hard to separate logic from sentiment.  You WANT it to happen, just as much as the other side doesn’t.  Making rational objective observations was my former job in marketing research.  Telling folks news they DIDN’T want to hear was tough (and a good way to not get paid).  Giving a potential politician the word that he’s trailing 65/35 and has no hope for victory was the difficult as it was to hear (he lost 64/36, BTW).  Telling a beer company their product was not well received was not well received, but cooler heads prevailed and they saved themselves millions of dollars.  That’s the beauty of statistics.

I let emotion get in the way when I made a comment on Facebook about two recent rulings in Idaho.  Both involved Federal judges making important decisions on items important and passionate to me – poker and gay marriage.  Coming just days apart, the news reported that a judge declared poke a game of skill, and that Idaho’s anti-gay marriage rules were unconstitutional, meaning that states joined 15 others (now 18) allowing same-sex marriages.  (Full disclosure:  I am heterosexual, but have volunteered with pro-gay organizations.  I also enjoy poker.)   I made the comment that “the dominoes were falling” or something like that, meaning it appeared that things were moving (for both issues) in the right direction, and victory seemed inevitable.

A reader saw my post and was confused, then took umbrage.  He couldn’t tell which way I felt about poker, and then, once I explained I was an advocate, was “concerned” that I would mix coverage of the poker issue with a discussion on gay marriage.

So here’s fact #1 – if you want to think of a subject that the course of public opinion was changed any more dramatically – favorably – than gay marriage…think again.  Take a look at this chart from the Gallup Research folks:

You’ll see “gambling” listed farther down the list, but let’s not worry about that now.  Here’s another dramatic Gallup chart:

Way back in 1996, did ANYONE actually believe that a majority of Americans would be supportive of gay marriage?  Well, yeah, I did.  Not because I was passionate about the issue (which I was) but…because of statistics.

I don’t have the charts I saw back then, but I do have this one more Gallup chart to show you that tells pretty much the same thing.  Check it out, and I will explain in a paragraph…

You can see that even in 1996, the youngest age group still did not have a majority of supporters, but they were (by far) the group most likely to support gay marriage.  Back then it was apparent (to me) that younger people were more tolerant of gays and of diversity in general than my generation ever was.  Forty years ago (when I was 21) we were just a few years past Stonewall, and a few years from Billy Crystal’s gay character on Soap.  I remember a high school buddy telling me he didn’t know anyone who was gay.  I told him he did – he just didn’t know they were gay.  Nowadays the closet is gone, gays are mainstream, and…well, you can see the results in the Gallup poll.

But that’s only part of the answer.  What really changed, statistically, wasn’t just that people had changed their opinions.  What also changed were…the people.  Old folks with anti-gay views were not as representative in the 2014 poll as they were in 1996, because many of them were dead.  Twenty years makes the 18-29 age group the 38-49 group!  It’s not the opinion that changes – it’s the people!

And that’s how I knew that gay marriage was inevitable.  The trend was (and is) crystal clear. 

So let’s look (briefly) at online gambling.  First, let’s look at gambling.  Go back forty years (I was still 21) – the only legal place to gamble in a casino was in Nevada.  Atlantic City was still a couple of years away (heck, in ’74 New Jersey voters voted against legalizing casino gambling statewide).  The Internet and the World Wide Web were the stuff of science fiction.

My, how time changes things.

Today the younger generation can gamble legally in 35 of the 50 states (I might be off by a few states, but it’s the majority).  We’ve had the Internet for years, and we even had a small taste of online gaming.  Just like the idea of “morality of gay marriage,” the idea of “morality of gaming” has changed, though not as dramatically…lately.  My guess is that the shift occurred a bit earlier than the first Gallup chart shown above.

Now, here’s another chart…one we’ve seen before:
Do you favor or oppose allowing casinos to run online gambling for people in their states?

Yes, it’s from my earlier blog about the Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll about online gambling and marijuana legalization.  Lookie!  Youth are in favor far more than us oldsters.

Look familiar?  And this is for ALL online gambling – the PublicMind poll did not distinguish between gambling and just online poker (which my non-statistical passionate mind says is an “easier sell” than al of gambling).

So the answer to “is online poker going to be a legal reality in the United States again, or is it doomed?” is YES – it’s inevitable.  But hopefully it comes sooner than 40 years from now, as I’ll be 101 and I really don’t want to wait that long.

Someone else who can’t wait that long is Sheldon Adelson.  He’ll be 120 then.  He’s also the eighth richest person in the world, and even though I’ve called him a senile ol’ coot, he didn’t get to be that rich by being stupid.  My guess is that he knows what I know – he’s read the tea leaves, and it doesn’t look good for his side.

This bring us to his actions of present.  As you may know, he’s committed to spending “whatever it takes” to stop online gambling.  He’s also recently adopted what I call a “scorched earth” policy; drawing lines in the sand and making folks choose his way or the highway, in a “you’re either with us or against us” kind of stance.  Witness the recent backsliding of the AGA (no doubt pressured by Adelson and his $$$), and more recently, the bizarre dismissal of PokerNews from covering a tournament held at Adelson’s Venetian Casino in Las Vegas – a tournament in which they were a sponsor!  You can read the whole story here, but the top paragraph says it all:
Less than a week after The Venetian excluded PokerNews from providing live coverage of a Mid-States Poker Tour event inside its casino, the company issued a statement which confirmed that the ban was related to to PokerNews' business relationships with online poker sites.

Here is my ADS explanation – Sheldon has seen the statistics, too (or has had a minion explain them to him).  He knows that his ONLY hope is to strike fast, now, with some sort of blanket ban that would be difficult to overturn (gay marriage related: DOMA and Prop 8).  It’s not guaranteed of success, of course, but it’s the only option. In desperation, he is doing EVERYTHING he can to succeed – on the national level, on the state level, in every venue and vestibule he can.  Because he’s desperate – he’s seen the handwriting on the wall.

Our advocacy for online poker must remain vigilant.  We can’t let him succeed.  Yes, time is on our side (yes, it is).  But I’m tired of waiting.  Aren’t you?

One thing you might have to wait for is my next post.  Tourist season has started in earnest, but I will do my best to stay on top of all things poker.  Longish posts like these might have to wait until fall, but I will try to be a concern troll and make the occasional witty blurb or droll comment.

It’s inevitable.

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