Thursday, November 20, 2014

The CSIG Just Ain’t Right – Part 1

I realize that I’m behind the curve and preaching to the saved and all that.  Yes, RAWA is dead for now (unless they sneak it in), and more conservative voices are speaking out against the cronyism move to grant long-time GOP supporter Sheldon Adelson his “due” by passing a bill that “restores America’s Wire Act” and puts the official kibosh on online gaming.

Still, my duty is to monitor the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling’s (CSIG) website and Facebook pages, and the rhetoric has been coming fast and furious of late.  So much so that it had me convinced that a RAWA strike was imminent during the lame duck session.  For once I was very glad to be very wrong.  Still, they keep posting and talking, and now have new video ads (highlighted by Steve Ruddock here).  And I ask myself: 
  • Are they saying anything new? (no)
  • Are they saying anything compelling…and believable?

Well, that’s what this post attempts to analyze.  Part Two will deal with the hypocrisy of their messages.  Here in Part One we will deal with the accuracy of their “usually fear-based” claims.

People can have opinions and be quite zealous about them.  Blindly so, sometimes.  It’s been often noted that Sheldon Adelson is very passionate about the subject of online gambling, and his minions in the CSIG seem to share that passion.  They all seem to have very strong opinions, and opinions of themselves can’t be “wrong,” but the facts supporting those opinions CAN be.

Take the oft-stated claim that allowing online gambling in the US would be like having 300 million individual casinos in the US.  CSIG touts this fear and also posts the latest numbers from Delaware Nevada, and New Jersey (with glee) when there are monthly declines in those states’ online revenues (they never post when numbers are up – can’t imagine why not).  The disappointing returns so far in these three states in 2014 would tend to show that the idea of 300 million individual casinos via our cell phones and tablets  is delusional at best.  Most Americans are too otherwise occupied or busy or just don’t care enough to go online and gamble.  Or, to put it another way – they just don’t give a shit.

One of the biggest fears that CSIG has utilized in their campaign is the potential for money laundering and other criminal activity through online gaming.  They use “bits and pieces” of an old FBI letter that does in fact state that there is the potential for same…just as there is potential in ANY activity where money is handled, including LAND BASED CASINOS.  They conveniently omit this from their scare-mongering.  This potential for “easy money laundering” used to be the strongest card in their hand, until James Thackston’s website showed how utterly ridiculous this was.  Remember the USA Today op-ed he penned with Former New York Gov. George Pataki? We might not know what hole Thackston escaped to, but Pataki is back on the CSIG website in a new video ad spouting the same nonsense.  Again, we’ve had almost a full year of online action on regulated sites in three states, and if there WAS any money laundering or other nefarious activity, you’d think CSIG would be all over that.  And so far?


Another oft-made claim – one that Adelson himself is most passionate about, was recently articulated by former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (and I use the term “articulate” gingerly here) and former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln in two more new video ads.  Brown, a former advocate for online poker, discusses how these groups “target” young people.  Lincoln knows land based casinos have regulations in place “to protect minors and promote responsible gambling.”  Yet she seems ignorant of same with online gambling, claiming these protections are simply “not available.”

Again, we’ve had a year of legal online gaming on regulated sites in three states.  Total number of reported minors caught online?  Less than the number caught at the Bethlehem Sands land-based casino in Pennsylvania (none reported so far, to be accurate).  Here’s another worry-based “claim” that has no basis in reality.

And what of Brown’s targeting claims?  I’ve repeatedly wondered why CSIG doesn’t show us any examples of how young people are targeted by online gaming.  Brown mentioned something about super-heroes and cartoon characters, but no real examples.  I assume he’s talking about characters like these guys:

And if that seems a bit hypocritical, it is, and that’s the biggest reason to take much of what comes from Adelson and CSIG with many, many grains of salt.  And we will discuss that hypocrisy next post. 

Your comments and snark are always welcome here.

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