Avengers assemble! Or in the case of the online gambling debate, Lobbyists assemble!
For anyone who thought Sheldon Adelson wasn’t paying all that much attention to California may I present you Exhibit A: Former Democratic Assembly Speaker turned lobbyist Fabian Nunez, and Exhibit B: Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, who issued a statement after signing on to the cause as the new national co-chair and California chair of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling according to the LA Times.
Brown, a former proponent of online gambling claims he had a change of heart, writing an open letter that stated in part,
“I was once on the wrong side of this issue — speaking for and supporting Internet poker — but I have since learned about some of the tactics used by online gambling companies to lure young people.”
Brown isn’t the first person to have ties to both sides in this debate (on both sides), but he is the first that was openly for online gambling before being against it, which makes it kind of hard to give his “I was once on the wrong side of this issue” decree any worth; if he didn’t know then how does he know now?
A spokesmen for the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling claimed he didn’t know if Brown’s new position was a paid position or not, but according to the LA Times, Las Vegas Sands Corp has paid Nunez’s Mercury Public Affairs $175,000 over the past six months, so if Willie isn’t getting paid he might want to renegotiate his contract with CSIG.
A trend is forming
The hiring/addition of Brown comes after a period of relative quiet from the anti-online gambling crowd, which seems to be their MO in this fight.
This is the second time Adelson and CSIG have gone dark, with the first occurring after Andy Abboud’s dismal failure in front of Congress, but after their short period of silence the group suddenly reemerged with a renewed push including a series of crazy “Cold War” YouTube videos that all but predicted online poker would lead to the end times.
The second “calm before the storm” occurred after Abboud’s testimony in California last month where he was almost dismissed out of hand, and once again could not answer questions posed to him in a coherent fashion.
Following Abboud’s California missteps (which really aren’t his fault, as the argument he is being asked to make has more holes in it than a golf course) Pennsylvania hosted a somewhat productive hearing sans any representatives from Adelson’s side, and then received a glowing report on how online gambling would impact the state, once again, with no pushback from Adelson.
And during all of this Lindsey Graham has been bombarded from every flank, conservative and libertarian groups have condemned the proposed ban, and there was of course “DeweyGate.”
But now Adelson seems to be ramping up his efforts once again. First with a Bloomberg TV interview and now with the addition of Brown to his CSIG roster.
So, it would appear that online proponents should get used to this start-and-stop strategy from the anti-online gambling crowd.
When things heat up Adelson and CSIG tend to go to ground, but they quickly reemerge with new allies, new talking points, and new vehicles to get their message out.
I sometimes feel like I’m playing a game of lobbyist whack-a-mole and I never even put a quarter in the machine.
Nunez will be representing Sheldon Adelson at the upcoming California iGaming Conference being hosted by Capitol Weekly.
This may signal a shift in the Adelson henchmen pecking order as thus far it has been Andy Abboud, the Vice President of Governmental Relations for Las Vegas Sands who has been dispatched to these types of events.
Perhaps Abboud has benched in favor of Nunez, or perhaps this is just a one-off move to capitalize on Nunez’s California ties.
Brown is a frequent guest on cable news shows and one of the better known figures in California and on a national level.
He will likely act as a talking head for the Coalition as Adelson’s efforts to ban online gambling have been getting more and more publicity on television as of late – with almost all of the coverage being critical of his perceived hypocrisy on this issue.