Angry Birds Is the Gateway Game to Online Gambling Addiction, New Adelson Ad Warns

The casino billionaire’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling ups the ante in its latest video spot.

National Journal
Dustin Volz
April 2, 2014, 10:43 a.m.

Like Angry Birds? Then you’re doomed to be­come a gambling de­gen­er­ate un­less Con­gress bans on­line gambling, ac­cord­ing to a new video ad from a group backed by bil­lion­aire casino mag­nate Shel­don Ad­el­son.

Pop­u­lar mo­bile games are the latest cas­u­alty in Ad­el­son’s scorched-earth cam­paign against In­ter­net gam­ing, as the new Web spot, dubbed “Don’t Bet on It,” de­ploys an in­no­cent-look­ing teen­ager who is really good at los­ing his par­ents’ money.

“I was play­ing Angry Birds and then, you know, I just found it,” the teen nar­rates, as im­ages of on­line black­jack and poker tables flash on screen. “It’s a lot cool­er know­ing that I’m play­ing a real game, not just, like, Candy Crush or Fruit Ninja.”

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The mes­sage here is clear: Give a child a smart­phone and he’s at risk of de­vel­op­ing a gambling ad­dic­tion. The tech-savvy, gad­get-ob­sessed pu­bes­cent in the ad is por­trayed as eas­ily hack­ing in­to his fath­er’s cred­it-card ac­count to log in­to vari­ous gambling sites. He quickly goes wild — “Roul­ette is cool”¦. Poker is the best!” — des­pite his ap­par­ent lack of know­ledge of how to play the games.

The on­line ad, which is be­ing tar­geted at “opin­ion lead­ers” in D.C.; Sac­ra­mento, Cal­if.; and Las Ve­gas, is just the latest fear-in­du­cing it­er­a­tion from Ad­el­son’s Co­ali­tion to Stop In­ter­net Gambling. The group began re­leas­ing videos earli­er this year as part of a six-fig­ure “aware­ness cam­paign,” the first of which sug­ges­ted the prac­tice would not only des­troy lives and wreck homes but also help fund mob­sters and ter­ror­ists.

Ex­pect this is­sue to flood your browsers in the months ahead. Ad­el­son fam­ously prom­ised last year to “spend whatever it takes” to stop on­line gambling in the U.S., on grounds it will un­spool the mor­al fab­ric of Amer­ica.

Last month, Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham and Rep. Jason Chaf­fetz, both Re­pub­lic­ans, in­tro­duced bi­par­tis­an bills that would re­store a dec­ades-old fed­er­al ban on cer­tain types of bet­ting and ex­tend it to in­clude on­line gam­ing, save a carve-out for horse ra­cing and fantasy games. Ad­el­son’s group lauded the le­gis­la­tion. Ad­el­son has donated tens of thou­sands of dol­lars to Gra­ham’s 2014 reelec­tion cam­paign.

Sev­er­al states are also con­sid­er­ing le­gis­la­tion that would leg­al­ize or loosen re­stric­tions on In­ter­net gambling.

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