Andy Abboud, the Las Vegas Sands Senior Vice President of Government Relations and Community Development, has submitted written testimony ahead of Thursday’s online gambling hearing in front of the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee, and as is usually the case with Abboud, his statements are long on fear and short on facts.
Here are some of the mischaracterizations, hyperbole, and outright lies Abboud will attempt to spew forth this week.
Claim #1: The Wire Act has always banned online gambling
In his written testimony Andy Abboud states, “Despite the fact the Justice Department’s Criminal Division had strongly and consistently interpreted the Wire Act as prohibiting all forms of online gambling.”
First, the Wire Act was written in 1961, long before the Internet. The first official opinion on the Wire Act as it relates to online gambling came in 2002.
And while Abboud is correct in asserting the DOJ was consistent in this application from 2002 through 2011, the courts were not in agreement.
So, for nine of its 54 years (2002-2011) the DOJ did officially interpret the Wire Act as prohibiting illegal online gambling.
Claim #2: The 2011 Opinion is just, like, your opinion, man
Abboud will also claim, “No laws were changed by Congress…There was just an opinion letter – A letter which as Attorney General Nominee Loretta Lynch said during her nomination process, does not have the force of law and can be changed at any time.”
As I noted in this column and above, the Wire Act Abboud and his boss Sheldon Adelson want is the 2002-2011 Wire Act, which just so happens to be the very thing they are now railing against, an opinion letter by the DOJ.
And here is what Loretta Lynch had to say about the OLC opinion in full context:
“[…] it is my understanding that the Office strives to provide an objective assessment of the law using traditional tools of statutory interpretation. These tools would not include seeking the views of Congress, the public, law enforcement, or state and local officials on a question of statutory interpretation.”
“It is my understanding that OLC opinions customarily are treated as authoritative by executive agencies. I am not aware of any statute or regulation that gives OLC opinions the force of law.”
Claim #3: Land-based cannibalization and job loss
Andy Abboud apparently hasn’t gotten the memo that online gambling is now seen as complimentary to land-based gaming, since he continues to assert, “Internet gambling is designed to replace people with computer servers – because Internet gambling requires no community investment, no tradesmen, no dealers, and no maintenance workers or servers.”
The idea that online gambling will cannibalize land-based gaming and kill jobs has been debunked over and over again. Online gambling can also be a boon for a local economy.
What online gambling would do is create new jobs in the market, while at the same time insuring Pennsylvania’s land-based casino industry remains healthy and competitive.
The two industries won’t just live side-by-side, they will reinforce one another.
Claim #4: Technology doesn’t work
The last Abboud talking point I’ll address in this column is the following:
“Don’t be fooled by the technology companies that come before this committee today or in the future promising Internet technology that will be able to prevent kids from getting online to gamble – because it is nearly impossible to prevent minors from gambling online.”
Basically, what Abboud is saying is don’t believe what you see with your own eyes, don’t believe experts in the field or the people who regulate them, and forget all the data – just trust me on this…it doesn’t work.
Furthermore, the way Abboud portrays the inability of technology is somewhat surprising since Las Vegas Sands relies on the same technology to safeguard its own on-property online gaming options – yes, you read that right, you can gamble online at the Venetian Hotel and Casino in your hotel room.
Abboud’s go-to example of the inadequacies of the technology is of an adult signing on and then handing their phone to a minor – what seems like an ultra-rare occurrence. This is no different than an adult buying alcohol or any other age-protected item, which is a crime punishable by law whether it’s alcohol or online gambling.
And let’s not forget that same adult could hand their phone to any minor in any hotel room at the Venetian.
If I was GeoComply or CAMS or any other company involved in Internet technology I’d be frothing at the bit at this comment, as it’s patently untrue and borderline libel.
This claim is even more outrageous when you consider the number of cases of underage gambling and drinking Sands Bethlehem has been fined for over the years: