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    Please Stop Writing Responses to Sheldon Adelson

    Posted by Chris Grove June 26, 2013

    adelson-online-gambling-rebuttals

    I know it feels satisfying. And I certainly considered penning one myself.

    But I think it’s time to stop writing rebuttals to Sheldon Adelson.

    Why, exactly? Fair question. A few reasons follow.

    It’s exactly what he wants you to do.

    Responding to Adelson validates his arguments and allows him to set the parameters of the discussion – the shape of the ring and the rules of the fight.

    More troublingly, it puts poker advocates on reactive footing: Adelson makes a claim and the response is that his claim is false.

    That sounds innocuous, but consider the debate from a neutral observer’s point of view:

    Online Gambling Will Bring Widespread Abuse, Especially by Minors (Adelson)

    VS.

    No It Won’t (Rebuttal)

    The problem there is obvious. There’s no advantage on the rebuttal side, only a negation. There’s nothing to offset the chance of Adelson’s argument being correct. If you’re trying to win over an undecided, negation alone is almost never going to work. It has no upside.

    And there are some other reasons why a litany of Adelson rebuttals – especially from sources clearly affiliated with poker or gambling – play into Adelson’s position:

    • Creates a false dichotomy of “gamblers vs the world.”

    • Raises the temperature of the conversation, skewing the ratio of emotional content to rational content in favor of the emotional.

    • Fiery op-eds tend to be a bit hyperbolic and borderline inaccurate.

    • Gives his views more virality and a longer life online. How many links do you think went to that article? Enough that his opinion will dominate related search engine results for months, even years to come.

    It doesn’t have any real impact.

    The above costs would be tenable if repeatedly rebutting Adelson had a positive impact to offset them. But I just don’t see it.

    The first problem: anyone affiliated with gambling is going to immediately take a credibility hit in the eyes of an undecided individual.

    The second: the confrontational tone and tenor of many Adelson rebuttals renders them largely useless for any purpose save rallying of people who already agree (and who would already be rallied by the existence of Adelson’s original piece).

    In fact, some rebuttals I’ve read are so aggressive that they’re likely to turn off some supporters of online poker regulation. And some appear little more than opportunistic PR pieces trying to ride the wave of attention Adelson has generated.

    Alternative channels with more impact exist and are underutilized.

    I do believe that the rebuttal avalanche has become counter-productive. But I’m not going to claim that they’re a mortal threat to the larger cause of regulated online poker on face.

    What I will claim is that there exists a better use of time and energy –  that writing rebuttals comes with a real, and potentially substantial, opportunity cost.

    So what’s the alternative? I think that’s actually the important conversation Adelson’s comments should spur.

    This scenario of opposition and response is going to play out ad nauseam as regulation winds its way through the states. We must develop a more robust strategy.

    Here’s my contribution to that conversation:

    Peripheral responses

    We should focus on deploying peripheral responses instead of direct rebuttals.  Here’s an example at Forbes that ran a few days after Adelson’s piece. It counters Adelson’s points without mentioning Adelson. And the author’s primary occupation is not related to poker or gambling. We need much, much more of this ready for immediate deployment in the future.

    Media proxies

    We should develop deeper relationships with the staff at sites like Verge, BusinessInsider, Mashable, TechCrunch and so on. These sites desperately need a steady flow of content, day in and day out. Provide them with the pieces of the puzzle, the direction of a story (such as Adelson’s prior support for online gambling) and let them run with the ball. They’ll be able to take it farther with more credibility than a poker media site or lobbyist would.

    Respond to rhetoric with policy

    Finally, we should undermine Adelson’s strongest arguments with policy, not rhetoric. When I say his strongest arguments, I don’t necessarily mean they’re “right” – I mean that they will resonate with a broad audience and therefore deserve special attention.

    In my eyes, those arguments are: 1) The lack of safeguards related to problem gambling (“click a mouse, lose a house”) and 2) The lack of identity verification allows for underage gambling.

    While you might find his phrasing of the points rank and hyperbolic, that doesn’t diminish their underlying validity – or the impact they have on an average American voter.

    Online gambling is fundamentally different than land-based gambling. And it’s a new phenomenon to most of the mainstream. That invites a fear of the unknown that requires a disproportionate response from regulators and the marketplace to overcome.

    Adelson is playing on that fear. The only response is for poker advocates to demand that regulators require – and the market delivers – comprehensive, intuitively airtight solutions to these fundamental issues.

    That’s where the effort should go. Because in the status quo, regulators and operators are not embracing the overwhelming response necessary to blunt the impact of Adelson’s core critiques.

    Consider the process for self-exclusion from an online casino in New Jersey. You have to fill out a form and admit that you are a problem gambler. That’s ridiculous and adds a stigma to the process that undermines the entire point of self-exclusion.

    Nevada’s regulations do require operators to offer “responsible gambling options that include a wager limit, loss limit, timebased loss limits, deposit limit, session time limit, and time-based exclusion from gambling.”

    Great. But the regulations say nothing about how present, obvious and available those options must be. Or about whether there will be some default limits that players will have to opt-out of initially. These decisions can’t be left up to operators, because operators have an incentive to minimize these functions.

    Another gaping hole that allows Adelson and company to score nearly unlimited points is the near-exclusive regulatory focus on location verification and not identity verification.

    Location is important, to be sure. But until regulators and operators embrace identity verification solutions that feel uncircumventable (or close) to the typical voter, “won’t someone think of the children” will continue to be a brutal cudgel against pro-poker legislative regulation efforts.

    Yet regulations in Nevada and New Jersey make scant mention of identity verification beyond the initial KYC requirements when an account is created. Players should be calling for advanced identity verification – biometric, live host checks, mouse and keystroke pattern recognition, shorter session timeouts – not the minimum to non-existent standards currently in place.

    To my mind, that’s the appropriate, efficacious response to broadsides like Adelson’s.

    But hey, if you don’t agree, rebuttals are welcome.

    QuadJacks – June 26, 2013

    About Chris Grove

    Chris is the editor of OnlinePokerReport.com. Find him on twitter at OPReport and Google Plus

    View all post by Chris Grove

    There are 4 Comments

    1. - June 27, 2013
        -   Reply

      Chris,

      I love your site and enjoy having you on my webcast. I agree that we don’t want to debate Adelson solely on his points, but I absolutely think we want to show strong public support for our position and opposition to his overall position (not a point-by-point one..rather one of totality). We also want to tie LV Sands’ branding to this.

      Adelson is one of the biggest donors to the GOP. We can’t leave his name out of the conversation, sadly.

      Lawmakers don’t really see this as a debate, so trying to undermine points won’t get us the victory. Politicians need to see where the public is on this. IMO, they need to see support for our position and little to no support for that of our opponents. It’s the same with media. Coverage like this ABC News article at http://abcnews.go.com/Business/online-poker-boycott-threatened-adelson-remarks/story?id=19473807 is exactly what we need.

      BTW, Adelson and LV Sands started a new site — http://www.stopinternetgambling.com.

      We need to be pretty loud here.

    2. PotCommitted
      - June 27, 2013
        -   Reply

      Well played, that is some next level thinking, I hope people take your advice. I will

    3. tuxcatpoker
      - June 29, 2013
        -   Reply

      Nicely done, all valid points to be sure. However, there’e a certain naivete – not directed towards you – when it comes to advancing the online poker agenda, i.e., to encourage politicians, and yes folks, nothing happens without these people – sadly, to act in the country’s best interest.

      And what is in the country’s best interest? A healthy economy. Online poker will generate a great deal of tax revenue which relieves pressure on the private sector, freeing it up to engage in what it does best, grow. And private sector business growth comes from increased jobs. It’s a total win-win.

      It wins for politicians as money is the mother’s milk of politics; it’s a win for government and the services (or re-distribution if that’s your cup of tea) it provides; It’s a win for poker players all around.

      Let’s face it, everything really is about the money. So if you want legislation passed, you need to focus on the monetary benefits to the country and people at large, that online poker brings to the table.

      Lotteries have paved the way in that morality can no longer be used as a stick. Money, coupled with identity verification (to protect the children – lol) is both the carrot and focus that’s needed.

      In Washington, D.C., it’s (money) the only voice that’s heard. It may sound crass, but it’s the truth. The sooner the poker community, at all levels and interests, come to grips with that and take action on that front, the sooner the Sheldon Adelsons of the world will be silenced or discredited or both.

      One more thought while I’m opining: It has nothing to do with whether someone is a democrat or republican supporter, a democrat or republican pol, a democrat or republican lobbyist; they all share the same bed and have the same long term goals – to get (or help get) politicians elected and/or re-elected. So let’s grow up friends and see reality for what it is. Think of it as an auction, whomever is willing to pay the most wins the prize. If every poker player starts to pony up some cash, we can buy an awful lot of politicians, and that’s NOT a novel idea.

      Apologies for combining my comments on different but related topics, I saw that Muny had commented and I’m not happy about that group.

    4. Pingback - Pokerlosophy

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