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Online gaming hearing season is upon us. The Pennsylvania Committee on Gaming Oversight has already hosted one formal hearing on online gambling (and several other informal hearings), and has yet another on the schedule for May 6. California’s Governmental Oversight Committees in the Assembly and Senate are prepping for online poker hearings of their own, including two joint hearings (on May 22 and June 24) between the Assembly and Senate GO Committees. These hearings will likely see the usual cast of characters brought in to testify, which means some will be good and some not so good. Here is the list of people I would invite to speak at an online gaming hearing were I in charge of the invites. I’m going to abstain from listing any of the iGaming industry’s consultants, executives and power players at online gaming sites, or people whose livelihood is completely tied to online gaming. The goal isn’t to stack the deck with pro-gaming witnesses, it’s to create a comprehensive and well-balanced list of people who will tell it like it is, with a couple of advocates and detractors thrown in for good measure. The way I see it, there are six categories that need to be addressed. 6. Does the technology work? The efficacy of the technology in place at online gaming sites is one of the most hotly debated topics between iGaming advocates and detractors, yet the people who are in charge of making sure the technology the industry uses is up to the challenge are rarely invited to speak at hearings. Instead we get hypothetical assessments and blanket speculation from laymen masquerading as experts on technology they don’t fully understand, have never used, or simply don’t trust. If you really want to understand the capabilities of the technology being employed in the iGaming industry you need to talk to these two people. Anna Sainsbury GeoComply GeoComply is responsible for a lot of the geolocation technology being used in the regulated online gaming industry, and Anna Sainsbury, GeoComply’s CEO, has done a great job of calmly and coolly explaining how the company’s technology works whenever she has been asked to do so. The real-time demonstrations of geolocation technology slams the door on any detractor trying to poo-poo the ability to ring-fence a market. Matthew Katz CAMS CAMS is one of several companies handling the all-important player verification checks for regulated online gaming sites. CAMS CEO Matthew Katz is well-versed on the topic, as well as being open and honest when it comes to how the company performs these Know Your Customer (KYC) checks, as well as their limitations. 5. That’s all well and good, but let’s look at the numbers The next topic that needs to be addressed is the numbers. How much revenue can online gambling bring in and what will the market size look like? Forget Morgan Stanley and their ever-changing predictions about the potential size of the U.S. online gaming market. Or Wells Fargo and their pipe dream estimates of the potential revenue in New Jersey. Lawmakers need to hear from focused gaming analysts who have spent countless hours poring over online gambling revenue and traffic data, and more importantly, analysts who understand the iGaming zeitgeist. Chris Krafcik Gambling Compliance is considered one of, if not the top industry publication on a number of fronts including market data analysis, and Chris Krafcik is the man at the helm. Few people can match Krafcik when it comes to experience in this field. Krafcik has testified at several hearings, including the contentious hearing that took place in California in April of 2014. Adam Krejcik Adam Krejcik, an Eilers analyst and veteran of the gaming conference circuit, is another person who can be trusted to properly analyze data and make level-headed predictions of where the industry will be in five or ten years. 4. Opinions of problem gambling experts might surprise you What makes problem gambling such an important issue is that detractors of online gambling like to portray the industry as something that will expand the problem gambling rolls, but when you talk to the experts, they paint a different picture. An often-overlooked aspect of online gaming is its ability to detect problem gambling behavior. Similarly, by regulating online gaming, states are able to funnel more funds into problem gambling initiatives, such as the way New Jersey forces online operators to set aside $250,000 to fund problem gambling research and help groups. Keith Whyte Keith Whyte is the National Director for the National Council on Problem Gambling, so he’s certainly not a big fan of gambling of any kind. That being said, he’s also a thoughtful witness, and understands that online gambling is already available in the U.S., and unless we go full police state online gambling is likely to always be available in the U.S. in some way, shape or form. Whyte has repeatedly stated that online gaming sites have better detection methods than brick and mortar casinos, and he’s also indicated that proceeds from online gambling can be used to fund problem gaming initiatives. Parry Aftab Parry Aftab’s day job is Internet security, but the head of WiredSafety has long held the point of view that regulation of online gambling would help protect Americans, particularly kids and at risk gamblers. Aftab proved to be a credible and knowledgeable witness during her performance at the recently held hearing in Congress on Sheldon Adelson’s proposed online gambling ban, RAWA. The fact that she doesn’t have any allegiances to iGaming also helps her integrity. 3. Don’t forget the lobbyists No hearing would be complete without letting each side make the case for or against regulating online gambling. The trick to picking which lobbyist to invite is to keep the vitriol and the hyperbole to a minimum, which can sometimes be hard when dealing with lobbyists and gambling. With that in mind, my suggestion would be to invite two people (one from each camp) and allow them to make their case for and against online gambling. What we don’t need are anti-gambling zealots with their own agendas asking for policies that are either archaic or will simply never come to pass. John Pappas The head of the Poker Players Alliance has proven himself time and time again to be well spoken, insightful, and educated on why online gambling regulation would be a positive for the casino industry, state, and the players. John Pappas is a regular speaker at hearings, has submitted testimony to Congress, and is a veteran of gaming conferences. Andy Abboud Proving I’m willing to hear from both sides, I’d be more than happy to have Andy Abboud, or another representative handpicked by Sheldon Adelson to appear and testify. There are enough logical, factual based speakers on my hypothetical panel to allow one person to go completely off the rails and make wild unsubstantiated accusations. There are two reasons for this:
Most of the time they do more harm than good.
I truly believe our side has the facts and the better argument. 2. Regulators… mount up One of the many glaring omissions at the recent Congressional RAWA hearing was the lack of any regulator on the witness list. As Chris Grove noted, they held a hearing on regulated online gambling without inviting any regulators. This is a particularly egregious oversight when you consider three states (two in close proximity to Washington D.C.) have legalized online gaming, and four others have legalized online lottery sales. I would be happy with virtually any gaming regulator from one of these states, but two really stand out in my mind. David Rebuck My first choice would be the man who is currently in charge of overseeing the nation’s largest regulated online poker market, New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement chief David Rebuck. Not only has the DGE done a stellar job regulating the industry, they’ve also been forthcoming with their data and assessments, and gone above and beyond to allow iGaming press access to their bureau chiefs. AG Burnett My second choice would be AG Burnett, the head of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Burnett is my second choice because his state has only legalized online poker and doesn’t have to oversee online casino games. But as the nation’s oldest gaming state, any Nevada regulator should be well-versed on the industry, and Burnett has proven himself several times at gaming conferences where he has done an excellent job explaining the capabilities and difficulties of regulating online gambling. 1. I fought the law and the law… testified? The legality and enforcement measures law enforcement has to work with is the one area I haven’t seen addressed often, or in much detail at online gaming hearings. It would be informative to lawmakers if someone could stand before them and explain the history of online gambling enforcement and law, and what tools the current laws and interpretations of said laws prosecutors have at their disposal. Preet Bharara What better person to testify on illegal offshore online gambling and what tools the government has at its disposal than the man responsible for bringing about an end to PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and AP/UB on Black Friday? His name may amount to a cursed word in poker circles, but Preet Bharara was simply doing his job, and based on the outcome he was doing it quite well. Gaming Law expert “X” In addition to Preet Bharara it would also be instructive for Congress and state lawmakers to hear from a legal expert in gaming law, and get their take on the current legality and application of laws, the Wire Act, UIGEA, as well as answering any other gaming law questions the committee members may have. There are plenty of qualified individuals in this area to choose from, and since I’m not acquainted with many of them I’ll refrain from singling one or two out.

Andy Abboud, the Las Vegas Sands Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Community Development, has submitted written testimony ahead of Thursday’s online gambling hearing in front of the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee, and as is usually the case with Abboud, his statements are long on fear and short on facts. Here are some of the mischaracterizations, hyperbole, and outright lies Abboud will attempt to spew forth this week. Claim #1: The Wire Act has always banned online gambling In his written testimony Andy Abboud states, “Despite the fact the Justice Department’s Criminal Division had strongly and consistently interpreted the Wire Act as prohibiting all forms of online gambling.” First, the Wire Act was written in 1961, long before the Internet. The first official opinion on the Wire Act as it relates to online gambling came in 2002. And while Abboud is correct in asserting the DOJ was consistent in this application from 2002 through 2011, the courts were not in agreement. So, for nine of its 54 years (2002-2011) the DOJ did officially interpret the Wire Act as prohibiting illegal online gambling. Click here to learn more about the Wire Act and online gambling. Claim #2: The 2011 Opinion is just, like, your opinion, man Abboud will also claim, “No laws were changed by Congress…There was just an opinion letter – A letter which as Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch said during her nomination process, does not have the force of law and can be changed at any time.” As I noted in this column and above, the Wire Act Abboud and his boss Sheldon Adelson want is the 2002-2011 Wire Act, which just so happens to be the very thing they are now railing against, an opinion letter by the DOJ. And here is what Loretta Lynch had to say about the OLC opinion in full context: “[…] it is my understanding that the Office strives to provide an objective assessment of the law using traditional tools of statutory interpretation. These tools would not include seeking the views of Congress, the public, law enforcement, or state and local officials on a question of statutory interpretation.” “It is my understanding that OLC opinions customarily are treated as authoritative by executive agencies. I am not aware of any statute or regulation that gives OLC opinions the force of law.” Claim #3: Land-based cannibalization and job loss Andy Abboud apparently hasn’t gotten the memo that online gambling is now seen as complimentary to land-based gaming, since he continues to assert, “Internet gambling is designed to replace people with computer servers – because Internet gambling requires no community investment, no tradesmen, no dealers, and no maintenance workers or servers.” The idea that online gambling will cannibalize land-based gaming and kill jobs has been debunked over and over again. Online gambling can also be a boon for a local economy. What online gambling would do is create new jobs in the market, while at the same time insuring Pennsylvania’s land-based casino industry remains healthy and competitive. The two industries won’t just live side-by-side, they will reinforce one another. Claim #4: Technology doesn’t work The last Abboud talking point I’ll address in this column is the following: “Don’t be fooled by the technology companies that come before this committee today or in the future promising Internet technology that will be able to prevent kids from getting online to gamble – because it is nearly impossible to prevent minors from gambling online.” Basically, what Abboud is saying is don’t believe what you see with your own eyes, don’t believe experts in the field or the people who regulate them, and forget all the data – just trust me on this…it doesn’t work. Furthermore, the way Abboud portrays the inability of technology is somewhat surprising since Las Vegas Sands relies on the same technology to safeguard its own on-property online gaming options – yes, you read that right, you can gamble online at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in your hotel room. Abboud’s go-to example of the inadequacies of the technology is of an adult signing on and then handing their phone to a minor – what seems like an ultra-rare occurrence. This is no different than an adult buying alcohol or any other age-protected item, which is a crime punishable by law whether it’s alcohol or online gambling. And let’s not forget that same adult could hand their phone to any minor in any hotel room at the Venetian. If I was GeoComply or CAMS or any other company involved in Internet technology I’d be frothing at the bit at this comment, as it’s patently untrue and borderline libel. This claim is even more outrageous when you consider the number of cases of underage gambling and drinking Sands Bethlehem has been fined for over the years:
Six separate instances of underage gambling from June 2009 through January 2010
12 cases in 2010 and 2011, plus instances of self-excluded gamblers gambling at Sands Bethlehem
Six more incidents in 2012
Four more instances in 2013

Sheldon Adelson’s anti-online gaming lobby group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), recently touted a poll on Pennsylvania’s appetite for online gaming expansion. As is normally the case with polling data, the wording of the questions garnered precisely the results CSIG was hoping for. The poll in question was conducted by Harper Polling between April 22 and April 27, with 513 registered Pennsylvania voters polled via landline and cell phones. Here is why this poll should be filed in the “grain of salt” file. A little background on Harper Polling Harper Polling is a right-wing polling company founded by Brock McCleary. McCleary currently serves as Harper Polling’s President. Prior to Harper Polling, McCleary had most recently worked as the Polling Director and Deputy Executive Director of the National Republican Congressional Committee during the 2012 election cycle. That being said, skepticism of Harper’s polling results goes beyond its partisanship. In an article from May of 2014, New York Times prediction guru Nate Cohn called Harper Polling “a newcomer to the land of cheap, partisan, automatic polling,” and said of its methodologies in previous polls, “Harper underrepresented urban voters… inconsistently weight for age.” Cohn said of Harper (and similar polling outfits on both sides of the political spectrum), “They may not be reliable for precise measurements of public opinion.” FiveThirtyEight.com’s Nate Silver grades Harper Polling as a C+ in his pollster ratings. Results of PA online gambling poll were expected Given that Harper Polling doesn’t have the confidence of the experts, the results from the recent online gaming poll shouldn’t be overly surprising and fall within an expected range on this issue. A 2013 poll by Quinnipiac had opposition to online gaming expansion at 62% – in the same poll, a full 70% of Pennsylvanians were opposed to further land-based expansion as well. Gambling expansion issues have always polled poorly historically, particularly when the poll was commissioned by an anti-gaming group expecting certain results. This illustrates why the crafting of the language is so critical in polling. If you’re curious as to how biased the poll was, simply scroll down to the final page of the results and read the list of “messages” Harper’s pollsters asked the respondents. These are almost word-for-word the talking points of CSIG and anti-gambling crusaders. This polling ploy is clearly evident when we consider Harper’s first question about legalizing online gaming in Pennsylvania showed 73% of respondents opposed, but the same question posed just two questions later saw opposition rise to 83%. What changed 10% of respondents’ minds in the span of two questions? The answer is Question 2 of the poll which reads: First, notice scenario two mentions “key problems and potential abuses” but scenario one doesn’t mention “key benefits or safeguards.” This careful construction would lead the average citizen (who has scant knowledge of online gaming) to the impression that the risks outweigh the rewards. Scenario one paints online and land-based gaming as the same; scenario two depicts them as different and sneaks in a warning about potential issues. Second, touting the results as “68% find online gaming different than land-based gaming” when respondents were instructed to choose the scenario that was closest to their opinion is disingenuous. Particularly when just two scenarios were supplied. Many people likely fall into a gray area between the two. Finally, had Harper added a few lines to scenario one, detailing the revenue and consumer protections the regulation of online gambling would introduce, the swing may have been ten points in the opposite direction. Takeaway Harper Polling designed this poll with a single objective in mind: To obtain the desired results for whomever commissioned and paid for the poll.

Nearly all Pennsylvania casinos, and a number of key legislators, are principally united in support of online gaming. But those hoping to cross the regulatory bridge must first contend with an imposing foe: Sheldon Adelson. And backed by the casino magnate’s estimated $28 billion fortune, an oppositional campaign is already underway in the state. Adelson, Sands exerting influence in Harrisburg Sands Bethlehem boss Mark Juliano testified recently at a hearing of Senator Kim Ward’s Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee. Echoing Adelson’s opposition, Juliano sharply criticized regulatory efforts. “Today, proposals are being considered which will erode the successful progress we have made in Pennsylvania,” said Juliano, who also cautioned against allowing off-track betting and tavern gambling in the state. “Approving these proposals will undermine the operators who have built destinations and will place thousands of jobs at risk.” Juliano said the additional options would counteract 11 years of operator investment in the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos. He noted Sands, which purchased and converted factory space once owned by the iconic Bethlehem Steel Corporation, has since poured almost $900 million into developing its Pennsylvania facilities. “Internet gambling is a job killer that seeks to move jobs from casinos in Pennsylvania to server farms in foreign countries,” he said. Regulation, Juliano told legislators, would “hurt the businesses that many in Harrisburg say they want to help.” A powerful force in Harrisburg, Sands Bethlehem currently commands a market share of 15.9 percent among Pennsylvania casinos, second only to the 16.4 percent share posted by Bensalem-based Parx. Earlier this year, a poll funded by Adelson was blasted by State Representative John Payne, an online gaming advocate and chair of the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee. “The entire poll is designed and orchestrated to give the answers they want,” said Payne, who sponsored a bill to regulate online play. Adelson-backed lobby active in Pennsylvania The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, a lobbying group funded by Adelson, recently lauded efforts from Pennsylvania legislator Mario Scavello to thwart regulation. A ban was floated by Scavello, then a member of the Pennsylvania House, in 2014. The bill proposed by Scavello, who is now a Senator representing the state’s 40th district, would have explicitly outlawed online gaming in Pennsylvania, punishing participants with fines and possible jail time. Polls, however, indicated a resounding lack of support for the bill, and Scavello’s proposal soon lost traction. CSIG made headlines last week after deluging Luzerne County with anti-online gaming mailers. “Internet gambling is bad for workers and bad for families,” read the CSIG-branded literature, which encouraged citizens to contact Representative Aaron Kaufer with concerns. Kaufer confirmed last week that he had received several such phone calls. On its website, CSIG assails virtual casino operators as irresponsible and reckless. Online gaming, the group says, could be co-opted for “nefarious purposes.” Internet gaming “will reduce participation at brick and mortar casinos, with a commensurate impact on jobs in lodging, restaurant, entertainment and retail industries,” the group claimed. CSIG lists a number of allies in Pennsylvania, including the Pennsylvania Pastors Network, led by former Representative Sam Rohrer. Former senator spearheading campaign Serving as CSIG co-chair is former Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, who appeared last month in the pages of Harrisburg’s Patriot-News. In an op-ed column, Lincoln reiterated a number of key CSIG talking points. “Could your child access these games?” Lincoln wrote. “Would they want to try it? Would they want to see what it’s like to gamble, with your money?” Lincoln has also speculated that virtual casinos could be used for criminal purposes. “The FBI has said already that there is a definite threat there. It could be used for fraud and money laundering,” she said last year. Lincoln’s lobbying firm, Lincoln Policy Group, was originally contracted by Adelson in 2014 as part of an “all hands on deck” push by the billionaire to outlaw online gaming. Lobbying efforts continue elsewhere Even in New Jersey, where no Adelson casinos currently operate, the 81-year-old resort magnate nonetheless attempted to influence online gaming policy in the state through personal ties to Governor Chris Christie. Adelson also remains involved in efforts to outlaw online gaming at a federal level. South Carolina Senator and 2016 presidential hopeful Lindsey Graham, a key Adelson ally in Washington, recently introduced a bill to overturn the United States Department of Justice’s interpretation of the Federal Wire Act, the 2011 decision which paved the way for legalized online gaming in the country. Graham’s bill was written, in part, by Adelson lobbyists. Since announcing his presidential bid, Graham has made opposition to online gaming a campaign centerpiece. Adelson has reciprocated with avid support for Graham, having donating to his past senatorial campaigns and, more recently, hosting fundraisers on behalf of a Graham Political Action Committee. During the 2012 Republican primaries, Adelson and his family injected $20 million into the coffers of a foundering Newt Gingrich campaign, a move which substantially influenced the electoral landscape.

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