Thanks to an all-inclusive PA online gambling bill introduced by Rep. John Payne earlier this year, the Pennsylvania House Committee on Gaming Oversight—Chaired by Payne—held a public meeting yesterday to discuss the pros and cons of regulation. As usual, Sheldon Adelson’s crony, Andy Abboud, was on hand to spread trepidation throughout the room, but testimony from industry experts and technologists prevailed.
Andy Abboud churned out his all-too-common, long winded fear mongering speech, warning of the harms online gambling would bring to society, the inability to successfully thwart underage gambling or regulate the industry, and of course, Sheldon Adelson’s favorite, ‘click your mouse, lose your house’ spiel.
He even tried insinuating that the reversal of the Wire Act opinion in 2011 by the Department of Justice was bought and paid for by the gambling industry. One must wonder how many attendants of the PA online gambling hearing had to hold back audible laughter at that ridiculous implication, ironic because the federal anti-online gambling bill, RAWA, would not be circulating congress right now if it weren’t for Adelson’s deep pockets.
But one after another, witnesses at the PA online gambling hearing shot down Abboud’s arguments. Heading up that campaign was John Pappas, Director of the Poker Players Alliance, who found so many holes in Abboud’s testimony that he produced an 8-page document refuting 18 of his claims, cleverly titled “Andy Abboud’s Testimony of Myths”.
“Sands’ testimony today is a house of cards that is more about fear mongering than providing the Committee with meaningful insights on how to best protect consumers,” Pappas told the panel. “It’s clear that they are not really concerned about Pennsylvania citizens’ safety, but rather the corporation’s bottom line.
“The PPA will continue to share the facts with Pennsylvania lawmakers on why a licensed and regulated online gaming market is the best and only way to ensure citizens are protected through a system that is accountable to regulators and the government.”
The Director continued pounding away at Adelson’s crony by pointing out that his Pennsylvania casino, Sands Bethlehem, has come under fire, and penalty of fine, on multiple occasions for permitting underage patrons to gamble at the establishment. Pappas went on to highlight the fact that Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands (LVS) properties in Nevada proudly advertise mobile sports and casino gambling to visitors.
Panelists were quick to respond to the numerous accusations against Abboud’s testimony. Rep. Tina Davis, who introduced one of three PA online gambling bills in 2015, inquired of the Sands’ representative what fines LVS has paid to state regulators.
In his response, Abboud made no effort to actually answer the question. In fact, side-stepping questions became a distinct pattern for Adelson’s crony, so much so that Rep. Payne eventually reprimanded him, requesting that he keep his responses specific to the subject of each question.
A representative of geo-location service provider GeoComply, Lindsey Slater, offered a stellar hands-on presentation of how her company is able to precisely pin-point the physical location of online gambling account holders. In a real-time demonstration of the high-tech systems, she validated the supreme accuracy of the technology by identifying two internet gamers at a Starbucks in New Jersey, seated on opposite ends of the coffee shop.
“We have it pretty much down to a building level. You can see what part of Starbucks you logged in from and, yes, we also know what you did last summer,” quipped Slater.
That raised another question aimed at Abboud in regards to how the Sands’ can promote mobile betting within its Nevada casinos, yet oppose online gambling in the rest of the country. In typical fashion, he avoided giving a straight answer, but did concede to the fact that Sands is able to use geo-location technology to determine without a doubt whether players are located within the boundaries of an LVS property.
Testimonies in favor of PA online gambling continued to flow in. Michael Pollock of Spectrum Gaming Group presented the panel with successful regulatory experiences from New Jersey, David Satz of Caesars Entertainment heralded online gambling for its ability to document, monitor and audit all aspects of the games, and Chris Sheffield of Penn National Gaming proclaimed the myriad job opportunities regulation would provide the state.
Kevin Mullaly, VP of Government Relations for Gaming Laboratories International, praised the strength of the online gambling industry’s security measures, identifying them as the same form of security implemented by online banking websites and other financially driven markets.
In fact, Mullaly offered one of the most rational assessments ever made at any state or federal hearing revolved around the issue when he said, “Online gambling is simply a modernization of the delivery of content that your land-based casinos already have the legal right to offer.”
When all was said and done, it was obvious that supporters of PA online gambling clearly won the day’s battle. A second hearing to discuss PA online gambling regulation is scheduled for May 6, 2015.