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Wednesday, 14 December 2011 08:07

Power to the Online Poker People

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Last week, Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson made personal protest against the legalisation of online poker.

In a statement issued to the CEO of the American Gaming Association, Adelson listed his concerns, including his belief that software and internet security were not yet sophisticated enough to keep underage players from playing online.

Of course! the more jaded and poker-savvy amongst you will be shouting right now. The man wants to keep people in his poker rooms at the Palazzo, not playing in some tournament online!

But the man surely couldn’t have foreseen the reaction his statement would have had within the community and if he had, I wonder whether he would have made the statement in the first place. This week, poker rooms are filled with the call to boycott the Sands-owned Venetian, a property featuring an 11,000 sq ft poker room which hosts everything from small stakes to no limit, charity and celebrity poker tournaments.

Whilst I sympathise with Adelson’s concerns – none of us want underage players visiting poker sites – I can’t help but feel his comments are somewhat commercially motivated. He was quick to note that his statement reflected his personal ‘moral opposition’ to the legalisation and was not the position of the Sands Corporation, but given the fact that he’s previously talked about the online platform being a tremendous sales opportunity – well, call me cynical. The free publicity he’s gotten for his casinos can’t hurt either.

After such a protracted battle in the courts, I can certainly understand why the poker community has reacted in such a strong manner. Online poker advocates have been kept on tenterhooks for months now and it is only reasonable to imagine that they would be upset with such an influential figure weighing in on the debate – particularly since he makes such a lot of money from people playing the game. If the boycott holds and the Venetian loses money from the loss of players, will Adelson retract his statement?