The Coronavirus may change the minds of some of online gambling's most staunch opponents
Sheldon Adelson is among the top twenty-five wealthiest men in the world, worth an estimated $36.4 billion dollars. He's used that astronomical wealth to influence some of the most powerful politicians in the United States. That list begins with President Trump, who counts Adelson as perhaps his number one campaign contributor. You wouldn't think defeating online gaming would be among the top twenty-five causes he would ask our president to join forces upon in return. Think again.
The mystery deepens as Adelson himself is involved in a much more serious personal fight. The founder of the immensely successful Las Vegas Sands is being treated for non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a rapidly spreading form of blood cancer. More than 200,000 patients in the U.S. receive treatment for the disease each year. Besides health issues, he's also fighting many highlighted legal issues while trying to keep regular hours as a functioning CEO.
Strangely, his fiercest battles have been against online poker. Of his signature Vegas casinos, The Venetian, boasts one of the most popular and opulent poker rooms in Las Vegas. But, on the other hand, he's also used his wealth and power to push specific anti-online poker legislation in the U.S. Due to his ongoing fight to ban online gambling, many poker players boycott his casino properties.
For several years his headline cause was the Restoration of America's Wire Act or RAWA, a law which attempted to ban all online gambling at not the state level, but directly at the federal level. That never passed, but as a consolation Adelson scored a recent victory when the DOJ reversed a 2011 opinion that the Wire Act of 1961 only applies to sports betting.
Although online gambling still isn't a federal crime, Adelson may yet secure the one thing he wants. If the federal courts agree with the DOJ's new opinion, the Wire Act will apply to all forms of gambling. That means no more shared player pools on poker sites in states with legal internet gambling. However, if we put a line out, the reversal likely would remain a reasonable longshot.
Being over 86 years old and worth over 36 billion dollars you and I might wonder why this man would still fight for any cause determining even more personal financial self-worth. I don't have any reasonable answer for that. Especially this week when an entire nation turns online for help and salvation, guiding them through every necessary task imaginable.
Except for horse racing, all sports wagering does not exist online due to suspension of sports virtually worldwide. Still, online poker and casino games remain a popular pastime for those involved. Could it be possible while fighting cancer, defeating online wagering continually drives this man's anger and bitterness? Or has fundamental reality finally come home? Unfortunately, there is no line for that to bet among the list of top online casinos and sportsbooks.
A New York State of Mind
Nowhere nearly as zealous in opposition, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is the other major U.S. political figure on record against online wagering. His stout legislative position has enabled neighboring state New Jersey to lead the nation, as sports wagering became legalized in May 2018.
Theories persist behind the scenes why Cuomo has been steadfast in keeping sports betting strictly onsite within New York state while online sports gambling has reached staggering levels in several states. As high as a record 88% of total volume recently in New Jersey. It surely cannot involve political party loyalty, as Governor Cuomo is a Democrat and has remained a bitter adversary to President Trump.
Some believe it could be his own lobbying ties to the Genting Group (Resorts World), owners of Aqueduct Racetrack and the state's largest onsite casino locale. Like Adelson fundamentally fears, it's the siphoning off onsite customer visits and misguided thought involving potential total revenue stubbornly driving the standstill.
The irony is that Aqueduct was the very first racetrack in the U.S. to close in wake of the Coronavirus crisis. Having some state online casino wagering program might have at least provided some goodwill factor. As sports will eventually surface in the future to wager upon, nearby New York residents will still choose the convenient online opportunity to shuttle across their bridges into New Jersey for sports betting.
No doubt a very common-sense Governor Cuomo has much, much more important current issues to concentrate upon involving the public's health, state hospitals, etc. But it is interesting that this once in a lifetime medical crisis will likely change his mind toward offering the state's residents the opportunity to wager online sometime soon.
How the Cards May Fall
If anything, the cruel harsh reality of our Coronavirus period may dictate a huge comeback opportunity for both online poker and online casino gambling.
Lines determining the return date for core sports like NBA basketball, Major League Baseball and the NFL are up for wagering purposes on popular websites like Bovada. No one is absolutely sure when we'll be back in the game or when the games will take place. The only reliable substitute may be online poker, blackjack, roulette and slots. These pastimes open a new opportunity made possible by our undetermined world crisis.
Meanwhile, Sheldon Adelson's Venetian and Palazzo in Las Vegas remain dark and closed, along with his other luxury casino properties in Macau. Time to give it up and stop the fight against online gambling.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.