Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Adelson the Hypocrite in His Own Words

I know, I rant a bit.  I’ve been trying to make the case that ALL of Sheldon Adelson’s “passionate” arguments against online gaming are hogwash because he claims to care about how families can be hurt by it.  In recent interviews he has spoken on how he saw gambling affect his own family as he was growing up, and some articles have made this look “favorable” and somehow defend/excuse Adelson’s position against online gaming, as if his own involvement in gambling is non-existent, or at the least, OK. 

Here’s Adelson in his own words, talking about his father, who was a frequent visitor to the ponies:
"…with whatever money he had."
"He was poor, but he loved to gamble."
"I saw the cost of a family immersion into losing money on gaming."
"When I look at people like that, I see the faces of my parents."

Remember - all this anguish somehow pushed him INTO the gaming business instead of fighting AGAINST it.  All he is doing now is protesting (feebly) against ONE FORM OF DELIVERY of gaming (online) – he’s certainly not doing anything else to help those poor, blue collar, working families by making gaming less accessible in his own casinos, either here or worldwide.

Yes, I rant.

But here are just a few of the things I’ve pulled off the Internet just today to show where Adelson, if he TRULY felt this way, could do things differently (and leave online gaming alone).

We all know now that in Vegas, slots are King.  More revenue comes from the slots than all the table games combined.  As far as payback, common wisdom is that slots are looser downtown, and the worst odds are found on the Strip.  Further is the notion that the luxury hotels are tighter still, as this comment from “Las Vegas 4 Newbies” discusses:
“The newer and more luxurious hotels, have the poorest overall slot payout ...especially on under $1 machines. The poorest then would be the Bellagio, Venetian, Mandalay Bay and new Wynn Las Vegas.” 

The Venetian (owned by Adelson) has more than 2,200 of those tight slots, and how do people feel about the payback percentage there?  Feel free to check the comments on sites like TripAdvisor and see how Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public feel about the Venetian’s lousy slots” for yourself, but here’s just one comment:
Sat and played a few different slot machine from the $1 on down to .01 and noticed that not only was I not winning anything but nobody else around me was winning anything as well. It appears the slots are too tight and need to be loosened up just a little bit to make it fun for the middle class gambler.

Hey, isn’t the “middle class gambler” one of those who Sheldon said might be hurt from online gaming?   But it’s not just Vegas.  As many of you know, Adelson makes a buttload of his profit from his Macau casinos.  The gaming climate is certainly different in Macau, as table games (especially Baccarat) are the players’ favorites.  But that is changing, and guess how?  And who?  In a report that discusses the change, we note the following:
The Venetian Macau – This luxury resort, owned by Las Vegas Sands, is located on the Cotai Strip. Boasting over 3,000 slot machines, the Venetian has the highest saturation of slot machines in the region.

Emphasis mine, of course.  And I just LOVE the note at the bottom of the report:
A Google Play download simulating Macau slots is available for Android phones and tablets of version 2.2 and higher. The app is free and features Macau-like imagery and exciting graphics. A link to this download can be found at the region’s Slot Machine HD Facebook page.

OMG – this makes slots available to every cell phone, and didn’t someone once say that he was bothered by this?
 “The thought of turning every single one of these into a casino bothers us.  It is a vice.  It doesn’t need to be everywhere.”

Just sayin’ of course.  BTW, I just started reading “Addicted by Design,” the book that looks at how slots are designed to keep players “in the zone” (and to take their money).  One review calls it:
"A fascinating, frightening window into the world of gambling in Las Vegas and the technological innovations that deliberately enhance and sustain the 'zone'--the odd, absorbed state for which extreme machine gamblers yearn. An astute and provocative look at addiction and its complex moral, social, and emotional entanglements."

Sure hope there’s a chapter on Sheldon.  Oh, two more things:
  • Gambling addiction is a serious issue.  To their credit, Las Vegas Sands Corp. is a Community Sponsor for the Las Vegas Problem Gaming Center, as well as supporting the National Center for Responsible Gaming and the National Council on Problem Gambling. But given Sheldon’s billions, why isn’t EVERY Problem Gaming Center across the country funded by his largess?
Side note here - it was the National Center for Responsible Gaming who stated (from a study): the results do suggest problem gambling is not as common among Internet gamblers as the speculations and the consequent conventional wisdom suggested.
  • I’ve heard lots of stories about gamblers who lost it all at Harold’s in Reno or the Horseshoe in Las Vegas, and the benevolent staff (or owners Harold Smith and Benny Binion) gave the poor sucker airfare home.  Anyone hear of Sheldon or anyone at the Venetian doing this?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Why Wellington (and Sheldon) Fear the Internet

Last week’s chump-riddled op-ed by former Denver Mayor and current Adelson flunkey Wellington Webb has been torn apart elsewhere by Dan Cypra and Michelle Minton, but I had a slightly different angle as to why it sucks.  And to explore this, I must ask you to compare iPads and oranges…

Basically, Webb thought those who would gamble on the Internet to be “chumps” because it was so AVAILABLE.  He made some of the worst analogies, saying that "Allowing internet gambling is like having a fast food restaurant in your living room."  He also made the comparison to alcohol (Sheldon took the drug reference at G2E), saying that it was like having an alcoholic live in a bar 24/7.  So the idea is this – having something more accessible, even if it’s the same type of thing available in a slightly different mode or delivery system (and specifically one you don’t own) is a bad, bad thing.

So here’s MY analogy, specifically as it relates to the Internet’s effect on how people deal with money.  Let’s look at the Internet’s impact on books.

Back in the day, books came in lots of sizes, colors, and genres, but they ALL came in print and they ALL came from something called a “bookstore.”  You went to Borders (I used to shop at the original store in Ann Arbor – a favorite childhood haunt), or Barnes & Noble, or the local bookstore (remember those?), or even one of the many used book shops around, and you paid your money and took your book home to read and enjoy.

And then, in 1994, Jeff Bezos created the PokerStars of books – Amazon.

My memory is a little rusty, but I don’t remember any legislation introduced that would ban people from buying books online.  I do remember many in the industry who thought Amazon had a snowballs’ chance in a Vegas summer of making it.  And here we are.

But our question pertains not to Bezos’ billions, but to the general public.  Did having access to the Internet and Amazon (and then and all the others) mean that suddenly  millions of books flooded homes across the country, and that wigged-out nerds, already processing sci-fi thrillers at a pace of two per week, overindulged to the point of paper-cut exhaustion?

Hardly.  If you know anything at all about the publishing industry, it’s that book sales have been flat for a long, long time.  Yes, more book titles are PUBLISHED today than in years past, but sales volume remains about the same.  And despite the creation of the eBook, the total number of sales (actual number of books, not dollar amounts) is in decline.

So despite increased access, the public’s behavior didn’t really change all that much, and no one had reason to fear online booksellers from creating a well-read citizenry, putting books in everyone’s hands every day.  But there WAS change - with the introduction of the eBook, it did change they METHOD some got their reading fix.  We can’t say, “Adieu, print…it was a good run (of more than 550 years),” just yet, but certainly eBooks are set to take over as the dominant method of reading…and soon.

Check out the graph from the link… 

THIS is what Sheldon fears.  Not that everyone will be gambling 24/7, but that the same level of gambling will go on…and that some of it will go on online.  And given how many other industries have seen paradigm shifts because of the Internet…music, movies, money, marketing, mail, media,..hell, that’s just some of the “m’s”…it’s a no-brainer that online gambling will nibble, then bite, into the billionaire’s share.

We’ve seen it back before Black Friday.  Sheldon saw it, too.  That’s what he’s afraid of, and that’s why he sends out his minions to spread fear-mongering drivel across the land.

Because he’s the one that is scared.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sheldon Soils Himself

October has three big events for me.  In order of importance, they are my anniversary (Happy 39th, Honey!), today, and my birthday (in a week or so - no presents, please).  I turn 62, which is both good and bad - good, as I can legally collect from Social Security (but I will defer), and bad, as it’s a reminder of just how old I really am.  Sumbitch!  But I;m not as old as Sheldon Adelson.

That's a GOOD thing, for today’s big event is Adelson's keynote address at the Global Gaming Expo.  Yeah, that’s sandwiched between anniversary and birthday, partly because at this writing I have no idea how good or bad I'm gonna get screwed.  When it was first announced, there was much gnashing of teeth, since while Shelly is the biggest thing in gambling (money-wise), he’s also one of the most polar.  Folks either hate him or despise him (I kid…everyone despises him).  He’s controversial to be sure, and some questioned him being the keynote.  But then again, the G2E IS in his home court (Sands Expo and Convention Center), so maybe he offered them a discount so he could get that plum assignment.  Ha!

Anyway, one of the hot topics has been whether or not Adelson would speak on internet gaming.  His views ARE well known, of course, and it’s one reason he’s highly controversial (his dumping of millions of dollars to influence all sorts of legislation and elections across the US might be another).  Many thought he’d shy away from the issue, but here’s my view:  why spend all that money buying Senators, CongressGuys, etc., having a Coalition and a (crappy) website and even getting involved with social media with a Facebook page (equally crappy, and sort of contradictory if you think about it), and then taking the stage for one of the biggest gaming events in the world and NOT speak about igaming, even if it’s the same old (tired and wrong) rhetoric we’ve come to loathe and expect all along?

Well, Sheldon did not disappoint.  In a keynote Q&A (never seen one of those before) moderated by Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business, Adelson touched on a variety of issues – why he’s so successful in Macau, his “good friend Steve” (Wynn, who is much better buds now that he made several bows to Adelson yesterday and took a stronger anti-online-gaming stance), and other expansionist ideas here in the US (Texas, South Florida, and Tampa, which is no longer located in South Florida).  Oh, and the Meadowlands, maybe.  And then the moment we all were waiting for – Gros asked about his opposition to online gaming.

Even though I was watching in the comfort of my own home (via Livestream on the internet – how ironic), I felt the heat come from the octogenarian.  Man, you would have thought someone was on his lawn.  Despite several attempts by Gros to actually rebut some of Shelly’s more wilder accusations, Adelson put on a tour-de-farce that made him look like an 80-year old man who’s out of touch with today’s technology, not to mention reality.  Some examples:
  • Gros said that online gaming was already here, and that stopping it was like trying to put the genie back in the bottle.  Adelson said, “The genie is not out of the bottle.”  Say what?
  • Adelson says everyone has a cellphone. I don’t.  Just sayin’.  
  • He said that online gaming is not a state's rights issue due to the borderless nature of the Internet.  Because it crosses borders, it should be a Federal issue.  Of course, it crosses the US borders, too…whachagonnado about that, Shelly?
  • Adelson says 3 year olds can circumvent identity verification controls on iGaming sites.  They can barely WIPE themselves, and yet they can get around ID controls?
  • He added that it’s impossible to know your customer on the internet.  Amazon, eBay, and a thousand banks might think otherwise.
  • He said he was worried about online gaming exploiting working middle class families; then suggested that “we” (his company) knows who is high in their casinos, unlike online casinos.  Ironically, this picture came into my Twitter feed at about the same time.  Again, just sayin’.
  • Finally, Adelson said, "If the federal government would enforce the law," there would be no unregulated online gambling.  How I laughed…

Face it – What we have here is a very, very, very rich man, made rich by bringing gambling to people he perceived wanted it…trying to stop others from bringing gambling to people who want it in a slightly different method.  And he’s prepared to spend “whatever it takes” to see his vision through.  Just like he has in Las Vegas and Macau.

I am a bit worried, and perhaps a bit frightened, but I am NOT STAYING OFF THE LAWN.

Thanks to Chris Grove (@OPReport), Howard Stutz (@howardstutz), Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock), The PPA (@ppapoker), and Casino City Vin (@casinocityvin) for following Adelson’s keynote via Twitter.

Myths vs. Facts vs. Godzilla, Part Two

So here's the second half of that dreadful "paper" from the folks at the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, taken from the December, 2013 hearing on Internet gambling before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade.  They tried to rebut claims made by pro-ipoker activists, but...well, I was so incensed that I had to respond.

And the reason I've done it this way, with the little postscripts after nearly every sentence in their paper, is because nearly every sentence in their paper is erroneous, misleading, or just plain wrong. So we begin with claim #5
  1. Then why not actually tell us instead of offering innuendo...or a very old FBI letter? (see next)
  2. Once again, CSIG resorts to the five-year old FBI letter we discussed in the last post.  Please note that it makes no distinction between regulated and unregulated sites, sites in Europe or sites elsewhere...and, it's FIVE FRICKIN' YEARS OLD.
  3. This might be the stupidest thing the CSIG has ever said, and here are 486 reasons why it's so stupid:
  4. Cute.  Asshats.
  5. Y'know, there's a very good document written by the folks at McAfee about Internet Gambling and cybercrime.  Specifically, they say (in their "Addressing the Issue" section): "The work undertaken at Europol’s European Cybercrime Centre is a good example of how strong global collaboration efforts with other agencies and the private sector can help address this growing threat"  Y'know where you can find this document?  ON THE CSIG WEBSITE (second policy paper).  Obviously, they don't read their own papers...or at least, they skip over the good parts.
  1. So now we're reduced to highlighting rounding errors?  And, to what purpose?  What difference does it make to your argument if it's $2.6 billion or 2.8 or 3.0?
  2. I just can't imagine why.  Did anything happen in 2006 to online poker?  Around, say, December or so? Clowns.
  1. If you can't rebut 'em, repeat 'em.  This is a favorite strategy at CSIG.  See discussion on European online gaming above.  Oh, and speaking of repeating, look - it's the THIRD appearance of the FBI letter (one more to go).
  1. Yes - many consider the controls for online gaming to be MORE effective.  And nothing ever goes wrong in a land-based casino, right?
  3. Easier, maybe, but that hardly protects consumers - they just go on to other sites.  And how does one "regulate" an "illegal" site, anyway?
  1. Again, not disputed, just...bitch, bitch, bitch,  And, if we're to "consider the issue," why not actually look at what's happening rather than making your own "sweeping conclusions" (using 5-year-old info, no less). It's been almost a year now, and all the CSIG can do is highlight how NJ's revenues haven't met "expectations."  Of course, the estimates were highly inflated by policymakers, but no mention of THAT.  And no mention of ineffective regulation, either.
  2. Yeah, they were TOO effective, keeping legitimate NJ residents OUT.  No reports on letting outsiders IN.  Dumbasses.
And so this concludes my rant review of this particular paper from Adelson and the CSIG,  But the truth be told, the "policymakers" that his coalition seeks to address aren't interested in this type of paper.  They prefer the greener kind.  This is why we must be diligent and press, press, press our representatives and Senators to NOT ALLOW big money to kill online poker.  Join PPA, contact your CongressPeople, and support poker!