Last week the San Francisco Hyatt Regency was the home of one of the biggest iGaming conferences on the calendar each and every year, GiGse Totally Gaming.
GiGse is a place for vendors, analysts, commentators, and insiders to come together and talk shop, show off their products, and try to get a handle on the latest industry trends, and this time around a lot of the proceedings and talk at the iGaming conference / supershow centered around the ongoing online gambling legislative debate happening in the US, with a specific emphasis on California.
Among the speakers were several prominent former and current politicians, including one of Sheldon Adelson’s latest hired guns, former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown.
Brown struggled in his first public appearance as a part of Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) after flip-flopping on the issue (something Brown admitted to at GiGse) when he debated former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and moderated by former Nevada Governor Bob Miller on Day 1 of GiGse.
Rendell came across as pragmatic and knowledgeable on the issues of gambling and online gambling, which shouldn’t be surprising considering he oversaw Pennsylvania’s expansion into casino gambling during his time in office.
Rendell was on point throughout the debate and emerged from GiGse as a breakout star of sorts in the iGaming world: Brown, well, not so much.
Problem #1: The children!
Brown made several easily disprovable statements during the debate, including the absurd statement that it’s not possible to reliably verify an online gambler’s identity – I wonder how many Brick & Mortar casinos Mayor Brown has entered that require a player to surrender their Social Security Number and submit to a player verification before they are even allowed to walk through door?
This argument has proven to be a dead end as there is simply no way to guarantee anything 100%, which seems to be the threshold Adelson and his cronies expect iGaming to meet.
Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (Brown’s foil in the debate) dismissed this idea of underage gamblers, noting that not only are their safeguards in place, but children using their parent’s credit cards will be caught by… wait for it… the parents, who Rendell called, “the best regulators of all.”
Problem #2: There are cannibals in the internet’s tubes
Underage gambling wasn’t Brown’s only problematic, as the second eye-rolling comment he made was in regards to the effect of online gambling on land-based casinos, an area of knowledge where he seems entirely in over his head.
According to Brown, who recently went to Las Vegas and had a great time (don’t just love non sequiturs?), online gamblers “engage in Internet gambling singlehandedly” by which I think he meant to convey they don’t go to land-based casinos, and since online is an option all land-based gamblers would cease going, and this would cost the land-based casino industry jobs.
Perhaps Mayor Brown would like to take a look at the data from Caesars and the Borgata in New Jersey which shows the overwhelming majority of their online gamblers are new to their rolls. Caesars stated 91% of its online players are new players (also known as new customers) and the Borgata has stated that 80% of their online players were not rated in the previous two years.
This argument is along the lines of McDonalds not offering French fries because it might cut into their burger sales.
Apparently Mayor Brown doesn’t think casinos should expand their customer base.
Problem #3: Resurrecting old talking points
Perhaps Mayor Brown was handed an old copy of the Adelson talking points, considering he tried to resurrect the tired argument of money laundering being easier online; an argument that has been debunked to the point that people spouting off in this manner are roundly snickered at.
Brown’s money laundering nonsense charge was easily refuted when former Nevada Governor Bob Miller (the debate moderator) explained to Mayor Brown that money laundering on the Internet is easier to trace and most money launderers like to deal in cash – as far as one knows, you can’t put cash into your laptop and turn it into virtual currency.
Mayor Brown and anyone else taking up this line: No matter what you do online there is a record of it.
Problem #4: Off the rails
Welcome to the “Off The Rails” segment!
This is beginning to become a theme amongst Adelson’s henchmen, and one people look forward to at every hearing and conference.
Basically, the longer they are allowed to talk the wackier their comments become until they eventually go completely off the rails, and say something that is so patently absurd you can’t take them seriously or, even more comically, make the case for regulation better than pro online gambling advocates.
A terrific example of this was Andy Abboud telling Pennsylvania lawmakers that since there hasn’t been a documented case of underage gambling in Nevada, New Jersey, or Delaware that is proof that it’s going on. Abboud finding the smoking gun on underage gambling was perhaps one of the biggest missteps in the short history of these conferences.
But Brown seems set on beating Abboud in the “off the rails” comments.
Reminiscent of Sarah Palin’s “Going Rogue” comments (Palin is still the all-time champion off the talk until you go off the rails crowd) Willie Brown, representing Sheldon Adelson who is pushing for a federal ban of online gambling, somehow started advocating for federal legislation regulating online gambling towards the end of the debate.