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.

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