Newsweek Attacks Online Poker, Industry Punches Back

August 15th, 2014 | by Kaycee James
Newsweek cover

Corrupting America’s youth? The highly emotive Newsweek cover that attacked online poker. (Image: Newsweek)

The online gaming industry was united in criticism of the Newsweek cover story that launched a stinging attack on both Internet gambling in general, and online poker in particular, with commentators claiming its arguments are inaccurate and agenda-driven.

The crux of the Newsweek story is that Virginia Seitz, in her role as the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, opened a “Pandora’s Box” in 2011 by offering a legal opinion that led to the reinterpretation of the Wire Act. This, argues journalist Leah McGrath Goodman, has “opened the door” to the legalization of gambling, which she says is corrupting America’s youth.

The article fails to distinguish between regulated and non-regulated online gambling and makes no mention of the lengths that the newly regulated markets have gone to establish strict age-verification procedures; instead claiming that “many sites assume players are old enough to play if they simply enter a credit card.”

The cover of the magazine depicts a sullen child holding a tablet device on which he has been playing online poker, a pained expression on his face.

“Shockingly Lazy”

Industry commentators, such as Chris Gove of Online Poker Report, have criticized the piece for its highly emotive hyperbole, its “biblically tinged” language and plain factual inaccuracies which are “shockingly lazy,” according to Gove. Responding to the assertion that all you need to play on an online gambling site is a credit card, for example, Gove asks: “What [sites] did you try to sign up for where this was the case? Did you report them to regulators, as it flies in the face of the basic rules for operating in a regulated market like Nevada or New Jersey? Or did you just make that up?”

The article quotes liberally and unquestioningly from members of the anti-gambling brigade, such as Rep. Jason Chaffetz, sponsor of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which seeks to ban all online gambling on a federal level, and yet no attempt has been made to contact or quote any operators or regulators from the online gambling industry.

Hundreds of Posters Hit Back

Hundreds of posters in the comments section below the piece were almost universal in criticizing it, with many asking whether Newseek had been “bought” by Sheldon Adelson and the Coalition to Stop Online Gambling.

“This is garbage journalism, said one. “Nothing but talking points from the anti-internet gaming lobby. Were you paid by Sheldon Adelson to write a hit piece and not mention all the money he spends trying to get the government to eliminate his competition? You should be ashamed to put your name on this and Newsweek should be ashamed to have published it.”

Richard Muny of the Poker Players’ Alliance, meanwhile, dismissed the article as “nothing but opinion, cherry-picked supporting quotes, and personal attacks on a DoJ attorney who interpreted the Wire Act as it’s written, rather than by how some with agendas sought to twist it.”


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