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Anti-Online Poker Group Piggybacks On Facebook Data Scandal To Push Agenda

Adelson Coalition Targets Data-Driven Online Casino Ads


A group backed by a Las Vegas casino magnate is seeking to exploit ongoing concerns about data privacy in the wake of the Facebook scandal to further its quest to ban regulated online casinos in America.

Business Insider reported this week that the Sheldon Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling is criticizing the regulated online gaming industry’s advertisements in an effort to deal a blow to the nascent market’s growth. Just four U.S. states have approved regulated online casino games, with a handful of others considering it in 2018.

Adelson, owner of Las Vegas Sands, believes legal online casino games will hurt his brick-and-mortar casino empire, the largest of its kind on Earth. But Adelson, a casino boss with a net worth of about $40 billion, also has made the claim that internet gaming has societal costs. In 2013, he went as far as to call online gaming a “toxin” and claimed it could bring a “plague” to “our society.” So for years he has funded efforts to “restore” a 1960s law that the Obama Department of Justice watered down in 2011 to give states the green light for regulating online gaming.

Legislative attempts, which have always fallen short, were dubbed “RAWA,” an acronym for “restoration of America’s Wire Act.” Thanks to the extreme difficulty of moving such a bill through Congress, there have been a multitude of backdoor attempts to put the genie back in the bottle, with the advertising and data privacy criticism being just the latest offensive.

Specifically, as reported by Business Insider, the anti-online poker group is highlighting the fact that data-driven online casino ads can follow a person browsing the web, appearing on a wide range of sites. The Coalition is making the argument that the online casino industry needs to be curbed for this very reason, despite state regulations offering state-of-the-art safeguards to mitigate against underage play and problem gambling habits.

Prominent online gaming attorney Jeff Ifrah, who played a key role in the online gaming industry getting back on its feet in the years after Black Friday, sees the Coalition’s latest strategy as a puzzling one. Ifrah, based out of Washington, D.C., is the founder and chairman of a group called iDEA, North America’s first online gaming trade association.

“It’s irony on steroids that a special interest group who claims to be concerned about data privacy is planning to wage a targeted campaign via Facebook in light of recent revelations regarding Facebook’s data privacy challenges,” Ifrah told Card Player.

Ifrah said that his group is surprised online gaming opponents “would try and tout Facebook…to support an initiative against a regulated industry like state-based online gaming that has witnessed no such challenges to date.” He added that Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania have proven they know how to regulate gaming “without compromising an inch on data privacy.” To date, there haven’t been any scandals to fall upon America’s regulated online casino markets.

There’s growing political sentiment on Capitol Hill to regulate Facebook in some way after it was exposed that the tech giant did little to stop unscrupulous groups from obtaining data on tens of millions of its users and using it for political purposes. The Coalition appears ready to use fear-mongering at a time when many federal lawmakers are critical of the internet itself.

Ifrah said that the Facebook challenges actually make the case for further online gaming regulation, not less, like the Adelson-backed group wants.

“Facebook is virtually unregulated—just like illegal offshore online gambling today,” he said. “The companies that we represent—and the members of the iDEA trade association—advocate legalized, regulated online gaming so that consumers can play the games they love in a safe environment that is overseen by state regulations and provided by reputable companies who respect their privacy and protect their financial data.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before a seething Congress on April 11. The online poker community will have to wait and see how the Adelson-backed Coalition uses future political developments to continue its ill-fated campaign.