Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince, Perry Como, and the Future of Online Gambling

Two things happened in the world of online gambling this week, and they flew in opposite directions.  I had no idea how to reconcile the news that
  1. Michigan was on the radar for legalizing and regulating online poker and casino action (joining Pennsylvania, New York, and California), and in some minds, jumping to the top of the line.
  2. The AGA debuted their “Stop Illegal Gambling” website, which comes at the one year anniversary of their movement of the same name that is designed to “…helping law enforcement, elected officials and the public at large better understand the scope of illegal gambling and its impact on our communities…” 
Yeah, one of these things is NOT like the other.  I wanted to write about both, but there seemed to be no common thread.  Then Prince died.

I was not a fan, but there is no doubt that he was a talented musician.  His passing was tragic in the sense that it happened by surprise (and too damn soon), and many of my friends (and former students who grew up when Prince reached his iconic status) were wall-to-wall about his life, his death, his music, and his influence.  The one thing that struck me (as the comment does no matter who or what it’s about) was when one fan gushed that, “We’d always listen to Prince’s music for the rest of forever.”

Nothing is forever.  What’s big now fades over time.  This is true for damn near everything, and it’s especially true in music.  Proof?  See that guy on the right?  He was like Prince – famous, iconic even.  A singer with 14 #1 hits, a television star, a pioneer in many venues, a success with several generations and widely respected for his standards of performance.

Yet you hardly ever hear any of Perry Como’s hits anymore.  I confess to remembering “Round and Round” and “Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom).”  But that’s all.  We move on.  Times change.  

Nowadays technology plays a role in those changes.  Which brings me to the “future of online gambling.”  It’s Michigan’s idea, not the AGA.  Michigan was one of the first states to go online with their lottery, and they also have a bustling keno game online.  More than 276,000 people have registered for accounts on the site, and they just recently added PayPal as a payment option.  They sell more than 300,000 instant tickets PER WEEK online.  They know that the future of gambling includes online activity, and with the recent announcement of “The Lawful Internet Gaming Act” (a bill to join NJ, NV, and DE in offering online poker and possibly other casino game), the state is moving FORWARD.

Now consider the AGA’s big news.  Here’s a (sad) representation of the gaming industry, rightfully concerned with illegal gambling, but wrongly going about how to deal with it.  It’s no wonder so many online poker activists look at the AGA with suspicion, as much of what they do and say sounds way too similar to Sheldon Adelson’s CSIG.  The difference is that the AGA goes out of its way (sort of) to state that it’s only ILLEGAL gambling it’s concerned about.  The problem is that they use many of the same scare tactics that Uncle Sheldon uses.  Like this:

AGA, through its “Stop Illegal Gambling – Play it Safe” initiative, is working with law enforcement and the private sector to distinguish the highly regulated, $240 billion legal gaming industry from illegal gambling and criminal enterprises that fund horrific crimes.

(The) “Stop Illegal Gambling – Play it Safe” initiative (goals are) to crack down on illegal gambling operations across the country that harm consumers, steal jobs and deprive state and local governments of revenues that pay for vital public services.

There’s lots of that on their website – illegal offshore sites that fund organized crime, lack of consumer protection, March Madness office pools, and cockfighting.  No, really. But the website (and the AGA) lack is WHAT THE FUCK TO DO ABOUT IT.  Awareness is great, and I am sure once Joe Gambler knows he’s on a site where the operators do not have AGA membership…I mean, are running an illegal operation, why he’ll just close his account and shuffle down to the closest land-based AGA approved casino and toss his money there, for America!

My ass.

Yeah, what’s missing is a solution to illegal gambling.  Like offering LEGAL gambling.  Yes, the AGA has lots of members with no interest in going the online route (Adelson, Wynn), but there are plenty others who not only DO want to tap into this Internet thing, they already ARE.  And after two years of success in three states, isn’t it about time that the AGA recognized that the “JUST SAY NO” approach DOES NOT WORK.

Give gamblers who want to gamble via the Internet a legal, regulated option.  Like the rest of the world.  Is this THAT difficult to understand??

In Michigan, no.  In Geoff Freeman’s AGA-land, sadly yes.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Truth Lies Somewhere In the Middle (If the Truth Can Lie At All)

Today’s lesson in “words mean things” is all about multiple truths, so you know we’re gonna talk politics.  And before I go much further, let me make this declaration for those who either (a) have no idea where I stand or (b) forgot:  I favor Bernie over Hillary, but will vote for either of these two over whomever wins the GOP nomination.  Just so you know.

And with that, I’ve done something few others who write about politics have done – actually let you know where I stand.  So naturally, if I say something deraugatory about Clinton or Trump, you can (rightfully?) say, “well, that’s bullshit, because he’s a Bernie-bot.”  Of course, my being who and what I am doesn’t negate the truthiness of whatever it is I say, but, for the most part, we (and by “we” I mean most everyone) tend to think that it does.

Which is why few actually make declarations as to how they stand.  Which is why we see things the way we do.

OK, on to the lesson.  This is an in-party issue, Democrat vs. Democrat.  I mention this because once we get to past the primaries and start the actual two-part campaigns, it’s gonna get worse.  Far worse.  Which makes this particular issue illuminating.

Last week, a Greenpeace activist asked Clinton, “Will you act on your word to reject fossil fuel money in the future in your campaign?"  Clinton reportedly responded angrily, and the fun began. 

Answer this question:  Has Hillary Clinton taken money from the fossil fuel industry?

If you are a Clinton fan, you probably answered “no.” And you’d be right, as corporations cannot fund campaigns, and no fossil fuel industry has given money directly to Clinton’s campaign.  And many liberal websites and “news” agencies would agree with you.  Check these headlines:
  • Blue Nation Review:  FACTCHECK: No, Hillary Did NOT Get Money from the ‘Fossil Fuel Industry’
  • Addicting Info: Fact Checkers Clear Hillary of ‘Big Oil Bribes’

 However, if you are a Sanders fan, you probably answered, “yes.”  And you’d ALSO be right, as Clinton has received money from PEOPLE who work in the fossil fuel industry, and in fact, nearly all of the lobbyists bundling contributions for her Democratic presidential campaign have at one time or another worked for the fossil fuel industry.  And many liberal websites and “news” agencies would agree with you.  Check these headlines: 
  • Huffpost PoliticsHillary Clinton’s Biggest Campaign Bundlers Are Fossil Fuel Lobbyists
  • Mother Jones: Meet the Fossil Fuel Lobbyists Raising Money for Hillary Clinton

Of course, there are some sites that tried had a more “nuanced” approach:

  • Vox:  Greenpeace is attacking Hillary Clinton's ties to fossil fuel donors — but it’s complicated
  • NPR: FACT CHECK: Hillary Clinton and Donations From Fossil Fuel Industries

Every day people get their undies in a bunch because Candidate A supposedly said something about Candidate B and IT’S NOT TRUE because something-something yargle bargle.  Because they read the headline in a blog (not a actual news source) that has a bias for their candidate and let me apologize right here and now to Curtis Stadtfeld, my journalism prof at EMU back in the day who spoke long and loud about “objective journalism” –
There ain’t no such thing.
Some come closer than others, but in today’s multi-media fed world, pundits and reporters are indistinguishable.  A source is a source, and readers/listeners/viewers see them all as fair and balanced IF they say what I want them to say, otherwise, they are biased against my blessed positions.
And it’s actually ALWAYS been that way.  It seems worse now because the political theatre we call “Presidential Politics” goes on FAR too long, and this year’s event has been a particularly nasty and protracted affair.  It’s gotten to the point that friends are unfriendly friends (both online and in real life) and others are taking sabbaticals from participating in the process (both online and in real life).  I regret those decisions, because we all need to take part in the dialogue if we are to progress as a nation and a people.
But it won’t be easy.  Truth is, I almost tossed in the towel a week or so ago, as I foolishly tried to comment (read: inject some common sense and a bit of facts) into a post from the “other side.”  I was in a conversation last week that started with illegals coming in to vote, encouraged by Obama (which is pointless since they can't vote in Federal elections). When I pointed that out, we moved to drugs (they're bringing "Heroine" into the country) and who shot JFK and Hillary lies all the time and Bernie is a commie and so damn far off track...and never, not once, did anyone say anything more about the “illegals can't vote” until the end, when someone finally admitted this: they knew that they could not vote but "felt" that maybe they'd want to and it could happen, so that's why it mattered.

Feelings, not facts.  That’s what this election is all about?

Y’know what’s most surprising to me about all of this?  That many people are “surprised” by all of this.

One more thing – I hear a tremendous amount of crap about “if my candidate doesn’t win the nomination, I am not voting for his/her opponent.”  Bullshit.  You know DAMN WELL that your liberal friends will vote for whoever shows up in blue on the ballot, as they’d rather vote for Hillary or Bernie even if they weren’t their first choice instead of whatever the GOP tosses up.  And you know damn well that despite what died-in-the-red Republicans are saying about #TrumpNever, they’d rather vote for the orange orangutan than either Hill or Bern.

You know it’s true.  I am being objective here.

And I forgot to mention this – much of the media sucks.  See below:
The reason I didn't use the Washington Post for any of my examples...because they really do suck this badly.