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Venetian Poker Room: Boycott and Sheldon Adelson

Venetian Poker Room

Since the whole Black Friday debacle, debate over the future of online poker has occupied many poker discussions across the U.S. The Venetian Poker Room has landed right in the middle of the debate as numerous poker pros are boycotting this well known property.

Why the boycott?

Despite growing support for legalizing online poker domestically, opponents continue their fight. Perhaps the biggest opponent to online gambling is billionaire Sheldon Adelson, CEO of the Sands Corp. and owner of both the Venetian and the Palazzo. He also owns other properties in Macau, Singapore, and Pennsylvania. Adelson has owned online gaming licenses in the past and once hosted a North American Poker Tour (NAPT) event sponsored by PokerStars.

Today, however, the 84-year-old Adelson claims that online poker is dangerous and immoral. He holds this belief largely because of his misguided fear that minors will use their parents’ credit cards to play while high on drugs. Yes, seriously. Whereas past fears were of children purchasing porn or buying extravagant items—or even obtaining psychic readings—today, Adelson fears modern youth will become corrupted by playing highly addictive online poker.

Oh, please.

Sheldon Adelson Venetian Poker Room

Tell us how you really feel

In a 2013 Forbes op-ed piece, Adelson called Internet poker an economic “fool’s gold,” a plague, a moral cancer, and a threat to society that “good people should avoid.” He also referred to online poker as not involving skill. This is despite the August 2012 ruling by U.S. District Judge Jack B. Weinstein in U.S. v. Dicristina in which Weinstein held that poker is, indeed, a game of skill.

Needless to say, these statements were a huge slap in the face to poker players everywhere. This includes regulars at the Venetian Poker Room. 

Adelson’s comments are, indeed, stinging, especially to groups such as the Poker Players Alliance. This group has spent considerable time and resources educating lawmakers about the merits of online poker and how Adelson’s attacks are without merit.

Adelson’s financial influence

There is certainly no love lost for Adelson within the poker community. Because of his extreme wealth, he is able to lobby and influence elections for candidates willing to keep online poker illegal in the U.S. In fact, Adelson donated $100 million to Rep. Peter King (R-NY) who introduced a bill entitled the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013. Thankfully this act eventually died.

Also in 2013, Adelson created the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Staffed and supported by a wide variety of people including politicians, lawmakers, and child advocates, this group is fighting against what members feel are “predatory Internet gambling operators that target children” and which have the potential for “money laundering, terrorism financing, fraud and other criminal activity, … exploitation of individuals with a gaming addiction, and the impact on jobs and economic activity.”

Back in 2015, Adelson put his efforts into helping enact Nevada’s Assembly Bill 414 (AB 414). This bill sought to place a federal ban on online poker. AB 414 would also force states like Nevada and New Jersey to eliminate their legal online gaming. Adelson even tried to encourage Congress to rewrite the Interstate Wire Act of 1961.

Remember, this is from a man who made his fortune through casinos and the Venetian Poker Room.

The American Gaming Association (AGA)—once open-minded regarding Internet gambling—has changed its stance thanks to Adelson.

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Hitting Adelson where it hurts

Back in 2014, poker pro Chris “Fox” Wallace asked, “How do you hurt a capitalist? You don’t give him your money.”

Refusing to play at the Venetian Poker Room, or the Venetian altogether, is one way to hit capitalist Adelson where it hurts the most. In fact, many in the poker community refuse to even walk into the Venetian. There are many other poker rooms across Las Vegas owned and operated by people who don’t hinder Nevada’s right to license online poker.

Since 2014, the Venetian Poker Room boycott movement has been gaining serious momentum. Organizations such as the Poker Players’ Alliance continue to work tirelessly toward legalizing online poker. In fact, there continues to be strong support for pro online poker advocates.

Will a Venetian Poker Room boycott work?

Even if one could organize poker players enough to actually turn the Venetian Poker Room into a ghost town, what effect will that have on Adelson? Playing the devil’s advocate, Steve Ruddock writes that Adelson could simply eliminate the room in its entirety and add more slot machines which will still bring in considerable revenue.

In reality, most people aren’t even aware of the issue.

Additionally, what happens if a boycott fails? What if poker players choose not to support the boycott? Will they be ostracized, accosted, and ridiculed? Given human nature and the incredible pressure placed on people who don’t go along with the crowd, this is, indeed, a legitimate concern.

The fact remains that online poker players and advocates are earning recognition for their efforts toward legalization and several states are entertaining proposed pro-online poker legislation. Adelson isn’t directing his money toward silencing his opponents (yet) and the message is getting out. Thus, some people feel a boycott is unnecessary.

Venetian Poker Room

So, now what?

When Adelson first proclaimed his moral opposition to Internet gambling in 2011, the poker community expressed outrage; however, little came from it. It’s not as if mere poker players could effectively battle the uber-affluent titan and change his mind.

While the majority of Americans do, in fact, support online poker, billionaires such as Adelson have the power to delegitimize their votes. And this is not okay.

Essentially, those in the poker community view Adelson as an anti-American hypocrite who is seeking to use his wealth to force his misguided values on the public. Therefore, they are boycotting not only the Venetian but anything else with which Adelson is involved.

What are your thoughts on the poker community’s boycott of the Venetian Poker Room? Please chime in below.

Until next time.

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