Valid reasons to oppose Internet gambling


Howard Stutz’s Nov. 24 column (“Look out, Net bets, Adelson’s after you”) employed a medieval practice used to avoid confronting unpopular positions. When you can’t defend the message, attack the messenger.

The truth is I am not alone in my opposition to Internet gambling. While a majority of Americans are in favor of “live” casino gaming, recent surveys show that more than 70 percent disapprove of Internet gambling.

I don’t understand how Mr. Stutz can suggest that my “philosophy is simple;” that if I have no reason to participate in online gaming, then I’m going to “shut down the game for everyone else.” That statement is simply untrue.

First, thanks to 50,000 dedicated and hard-working Las Vegas Sands team members, our company has a market capitalization equal to or greater than all of our closest competitors combined. Our Venetian brand has every bit the cache of a Caesars or MGM brand, and our balance sheet is the envy of the industry. If we wanted to participate in Internet gambling, we would certainly be a formidable competitor.

Additionally, our properties in Las Vegas receive twice as much profit from nongaming sources as we do from our casinos. Our primary markets in Las Vegas also tend to the high-end towards customers who are not likely to play on the Internet. So a financial motive has nothing to do with my feelings about Internet gambling.

So let’s stop attacking the messenger and get down to brass tacks.

The argument for Internet gambling is enormously flawed and the “coalition” in favor of it includes two gaming companies, a smattering of poker player organizations, and state governments looking for much-needed tax revenue. It’s not exactly what I would call a coalition of the willing.

Mr. Stutz suggests I will spend “millions” on a campaign to defeat Internet gambling. I have made no such prediction, and frankly this debate shouldn’t be about what I spend or don’t spend. It should be about two things: 1) Is it bad for the public and our society in general? And 2) Is it bad or even dangerous for the gaming industry?

On the first point, the main argument from Internet gambling proponents is that we need to legalize online gambling in the United States to regulate it, because the government has not been able to stop offshore online gambling sites from doing business in the U.S., or worse, operating websites involved in illegal activity.

So let me get this straight. Proponents say that technology exists to effectively regulate Internet gambling to stop minors, addicted gamblers, money launderers and organized crime from accessing it. But the technology does not exist to block the unscrupulous foreign websites from targeting those same audiences.

Apparently, the technology exists to serve the needs of Internet gambling proponents, but doesn’t exist to serve the needs of those of us who oppose it.

Sounds to me like the height of hypocrisy.

My company operates multi-billion dollar integrated resorts in the U.S. and Asia. We employ tens of thousands of people who work in a variety of departments, including hotel, food and beverage, entertainment, retail and many others. And, yes, we also have casinos that generate important revenues for our company.

But to undertake an experience in one of our casinos, you need to make a series of physical choices. You have to first get dressed, then leave your home in whatever weather you find. You need to be seen and interact with other people, including staff in the casino, you need to physically buy chips and you need to be seen at a table or in the slot area.

In contrast, with Internet gambling, you can get dressed or stay in your pajamas, lying in your bed or sitting at your kitchen while table tapping away on your computer, tablet or smart phone.

The New York Times editorial page recently wrote, “For gamblers with addiction problems, the process of tapping out a paycheck and maxing out a credit card has just become infinitely easier.” They also quoted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie before he signed the New Jersey bill into law as saying, “I’m also really concerned about setting up a whole new generation of addicted gamblers. If you can sit on the edge of your bed with your laptop and gamble away the paycheck, that’s a lot different than making the decision to go down to Atlantic City to gamble in a casino.”

In addition, I do believe there will be a negative impact on land-based casinos, especially those in regional locations. This fact has already been demonstrated in Europe. The more they claim success on the Internet, the greater the negative impact on land-based casinos. Anybody who doesn’t think land-based casinos are not going to be hurt is playing wishful thinking.

With the lack of strategic thought some of our colleagues in the industry have put into this, they have missed the fact that the land-based casinos, particularly regional ones, have a very high risk of losing at least 20 percent from their top line while at the same time risk losing a more significant percentage of their bottom line.

We at Las Vegas Sands are fortunate to operate the largest company, by value, in the history of the gaming/hospitality industry. I have had nearly 25 years in this industry and more than six decades in business in general. So I have the experience and the knowledge to assess a potential opportunity and to determine whether it’s good or bad for my company or the industry overall.

For the reasons I’ve outlined above, I think proponents of this idea ought to wake up and realize that it’s not good for our families and it’s not good for our industry.

And remember, when you see somebody attacking the messenger, it’s usually because they can’t defend the message.

Sheldon G. Adelson is the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands.

 

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