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Former California Lawmaker Flip-Flops On Internet Poker, Joins Adelson's Side

Willie Brown To Chair California Arm Of Coalition To Stop Internet Gambling

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Online poker players, especially those in California, have a new enemy.

Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco (1996-2004) and previously a California legislator, said last week that he is joining billionaire Las Vegas casino owner Sheldon Adelson in the latter’s quest to stop online gaming in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Brown’s commitment to the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling is perplexing because of Brown’s previous work to support online poker legalization in the Golden State.

AdelsonBrown said he is the new national co-chair and California chair of Adelson’s coalition.

“There are a multitude of reasons to oppose the expansion of Internet gambling," Brown said in an open letter about his flip-flop. “I was once on the wrong side of this issue—speaking for and supporting Internet poker—but I have since learned about some of the tactics used by online gambling companies to lure young people.”

There are currently two bills in the California legislature that aim to legalize online poker—and online poker only—within the state’s borders. Both are up for consideration. California lawmakers held a hearing last month on the issue, which featured lots of expert testimony, but no action on either bill was taken.

This year is an election year in California, so it’s unlikely either will pass before 2015.

Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. is the largest brick-and-mortar casino developer in the world, but unlike some of its peers in the industry, hasn’t decided to pursue online gambling. Adelson said he thinks online gambling would hurt brick-and-mortars, as well as negatively impact society.

Just three states in the country—Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware—have online poker. Adelson has said he is willing to spend “whatever it takes” to stop it from spreading.