Online poker supporters believe they have all of the facts on their side when it comes to opposing an Internet gambling ban that has been proposed in Congress.
That said, they’ve shown a willingness to debate the issue with opponents that want to see Internet poker banned in the United States, allowing voters (and policymakers) to hear both sides in order to come to an informed decision.
There’s only one problem with that: in order to have those debates, your opponents actually have to show up.
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), held this year at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, MD (just outside of Washington, D.C.), visitors were expected to be treated to a debate between representatives of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) and Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG) over the future of online gambling in the United States.
But while PPA Executive Director John Pappas showed up for the pro-poker side of the debate, there wasn’t a CSIG representative to be found.
The CSIG side was expected to be spoken for by Andy Abboud, the Las Vegas Sands Vice President of Government Relations. But at the scheduled time, Abboud wasn’t present, and no other CSIG representatives could be found. The result: no debate, and an obvious talking point for online poker fans.
“I guess when the rubber meets the road, prohibition supporters realize they can’t backup their fear-mongering PR campaign with actual facts,” Pappas said in a statement. “I was looking forward to an open and fair debate on the future of online gaming, and not just because the facts are on our side.
Before Congress votes on any legislation that would impose a broad prohibition, like the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), I think American voters deserve to hear both sides clearly articulate how such a ban impacts consumers, states and the economy.”
RAWA, which will receive a hearing from the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations on Thursday, would effectively ban most forms of online gambling in the United States. This would mean that states could no longer regulate online poker within their own borders, and that states that already do so, including Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, may have to end their current operations.
There has been no statement from CSIG about why they failed to attend the debate. CPAC likely scheduled the talk because of the controversial nature of online gambling: the issue isn’t a strictly partisan one, with Internet poker having both supporters and detractors among conservatives as well as liberals.
Some online poker fans have speculated that Abboud avoided the debate because of perceived poor performances in previous talks on the subject, including a March 2014 debate against Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO Mitch Garber and a December 2013 Congressional hearing.
Pappas took a similar tact in assigning motive to why his opponents didn’t step up to debate him at CPAC.
“The fact that the primary RAWA supporters refused to join this debate, after significant effort by the organizers, tells me that they want their bill rubberstamped instead of openly debated on the merits,” Pappas said.