Is it finally time to boycott Sheldon Adelson and the Venetian?

Posted on May 2, 2014

A poker player I highly respect both for his ability and for his opinions is Chris “Fox” Wallace, so when he penned an editorial this week I headed over to FoxPoker.com to give it a read.

You can read it here: Screw Sheldon Adelson #boycottvenetian

Fox, like many others in the poker world is disgusted with Sheldon Adelson and the blatant hypocrisy of his online gambling crusade, and is calling for poker players to boycott the Venetian and anything to do with Adelson.

Generally speaking I agree with what Chris is saying. Adelson is being highly hypocritical and is looking to take away what I consider to be my right. But here is why I don’t think this (a boycott) is the right idea at this point in time.

Do we hate Sheldon Adelson, or do we hate Adelson’s online gambling stance?

Prior to his public stance against online poker the Venetian was seen as a gem in the poker world and there was no stigma associated with playing there, despite Adelson’s efforts to influence elections, incendiary Middle Eastern foreign policy, insensitive remarks regarding Muslims, or opposition to unionized workers.

Take away Adelson’s stance on online gambling (which is a valid position to hold mind you) and are we still calling for a boycott?

As I said on Facebook regarding this, there is a difference between someone saying something I find disgusting and socially unacceptable (Donald Sterling or the Westboro Baptist Church) and someone saying something I disagree with – Adelson’s online gambling stance or any number of people who are against Marriage Equality.

The former group would cause me to publicly speak out and boycott their product if needed, the latter is something I feel can be discussed and debated in normal channels.

On top of that…

Our side is winning

More importantly, every ringside judge’s scorecard has the pro online gambling advocates winning, and it’s not even close.

Everyone who has hopped on board the “Shelly Express” has been publicly criticized for essentially being on the take or expecting political favors down the road, and not just by poker players. This story has been covered on both MSNBC and FOX as well as in just about major print newspaper.

Since we are winning handily there is little reason to go much further than we already are. I liken it to a politician being ahead of his opponent by 30 points in the polls who makes the unnecessary decision to go negative and it backfires and blows up in their face.

Sometimes when you try to gin up outrage you create a victim or give the person more coverage then they deserve, and there is nothing people love more than rallying around a victim – Cliven Bundy ladies and gentlemen.

Now is not the time to stage an organized boycott of the Venetian, not publicly anyway, if you want to personally boycott the Venetian go right ahead.

Plus…

Even a successful boycott will have zero effect

Let’s forget the not so small problem that organizing poker players is like trying to eat Jello with a butter knife. Forget that for a moment, and let’s suppose you did manage to pull it off, and the Venetian poker room was a ghost town, what impact does this have on Adelson?

If it’s prolonged he simply mothballs his tables and puts in banks of slot machines, laying off the entire poker room in the process.

Even if it’s just a minor slowdown that’s money out of the employee’s pockets more than his.

And of course, the more relevant question is…

What happens if it fails?

What happens if you make a big production of it, and plan this massive movement, and the poker room is still full? And keep in mind this is certainly the most likely scenario for three reasons:

  • As mentioned above, good luck organizing poker players
  • Once word gets out that all the pros are boycotting the Venetian you’ll have people flocking there to play in the soft games
  • Most people that go to the Venetian have no idea this is even an issue

Think for a moment how this would look to the outside world and what kind of fodder it provides to Adelson and company, “even a lot of poker players agree with me, online gambling is bad… They staged this big ballyhooed boycott and my poker room is as full as ever.”

I also wonder if…

It could create a rift in the poker community

What happens to the players who don’t go along with the boycott? Do we chastise them? Do we accost them and publicly ridicule them and call them scabs?

Final thought

While I wouldn’t rule out a boycott at some point, I just don’t see the necessity for one at this time.

Adelson is certainly being smarmy and misleading with his talking points and tactics, but he is not cheating. So, if someone wants to waste $50 million to argue his side then I say go for it.

Now, if Adelson’s money was stifling our side’s message (we were being rejected by print newspapers or there was totally biased coverage) or if he was engaging in other underhanded tactics through his wealth (perhaps setting up some scenario where an underage player is trotted out as an example) that’s a different matter, but marching Andy “Leaping Lanny Poffo*” Abboud out to hearings and panels to make silly baseless arguments and get cut off by lawmakers is fine by me.

As it stands right now, Adelson’s anti-online gambling movement is being defeated by using the normal channels, so a boycott is not needed. Let’s not be Luke Skywalker and go rushing off to confront Darth Vader before our training is complete.

*For those of you who don’t get the reference, Leaping Lanny Poffo was a “jobber” in 1980’s wrestling, which means he was the guy who you knew was going to lose every time he came to the ring.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve Ruddock is a longtime member of the online gambling industry. He covers the regulated US online casino and poker industries for variety of publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, PlayNJ.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.

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