Tuesday, July 21, 2015

An open letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein

I received an email today from the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), asking me to email my senator, Dianne Feinstein, about her support of the Sheldon Adelson-sponsored Restoration of America's Wire Act (RAWA). Since this is an issue that's close to my heart - I've previously written some analysis of Adelson's anti-online gambling stance - I decided that a personal letter made a lot more sense than the canned one the PPA asked me to send. That letter follows. Please feel free to plagiarize use any part of this you think appropriate if you contact your own Senator or Representative. If you want to use the PPA's form letter, which is pretty good, you can find it here.

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I have been an ardent supporter of yours since your run for Governor in 1990, voting for you then and in each of your campaigns for the Senate. I considered you a strong, fearless advocate, something that is quite rare in today's political climate.

Until now, that is. I find your support of Sen. Graham's Restoration of America's Wire Act reprehensible and irresponsible. I will set aside for now the discussion of the original 1961 Wire Act, which (despite your DOJ letter to the contrary) was never intended to regulate anything other than sports betting.

The real question here is the issue of online gambling and the impact of either regulation or a ban. The position you have taken on this issue is a nearly word-for-word copy of Sheldon Adelson's widely circulated opinion, which I find troubling in the extreme. Mr. Adelson has reversed his position on this matter since I first did business with him in 2006; at that time, he not only supported online gambling, but accepted millions of dollars from PokerStars (for whom I worked at the time). At that time, Mr. Adelson believed enough in online gambling that he allowed us to conduct a televised event at the Venetian, with both the Venetian and PokerStars logos on the table. I participated in a conference call in which Mr. Adelson participated discussing this event, so there is no question that he was both aware and supportive of it, which netted his company nearly $2 million.

In the intervening years, Mr. Adelson has changed his mind, and decided that online gambling is evil and destructive. Unfortunately, the data he has used to support this position is almost entirely fabricated. He has pointed to surveys showing a dramatic increase in gambling addiction in European countries that have legalized online gambling (which is most of Europe); however, the actual data shows the opposite. He has stated that live casino business suffers by as much as 20% when online gambling is introduced, even though published data shows a measurable increase. He takes the position that his and other casino companies can detect people with gaming problems and bar them, but this is far from the truth - casinos take almost no steps to control people with gambling addictions unless their problems disturb the casino floor. And he has taken the almost ridiculous position that his casinos can detect money laundering, despite the fact that the vast majority of live gambling is done with cash, the most easily exploitable means by which money is laundered.

The single area in which Mr. Adelson's arguments make a little sense is in underage gambling. This is a real problem, both in live and online gambling. However, banning online gambling doesn't solve this problem; in fact, it enables far more underage gambling by pushing the problem to unregulated non-US gambling sites, which have virtually no regulatory oversight.

I find your position on this subject particularly troubling because I have long respected your thoughtful positions on such issues as the assault weapons ban and medical marijuana for veterans. The position RAWA takes on online gambling is unsupported by almost 20 years of industry data, including over 10 years in legal, regulated markets.

As my Senator, I expect you to be the voice of reason in a Congress that often veers far from the course of reasonable choices. If you truly believe the position you have taken on RAWA, I strongly urge you to examine the easily-available data that exposes Mr. Adelson's position as nothing but a predatory business position. Absent this careful study, which your staff clearly hasn't done, your position is irresponsible and contrary to the facts.

As a constituent and long-time supporter, I respectfully request that you reconsider your position on this important issue.


Daniel Goldman


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