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What Do Terrorism and Online Poker Have in Common? What Do Terrorism and Online Poker Have in Common?

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What Do Terrorism and Online Poker Have in Common?

According to Sheldon Adelson’s latest attack ad: quite a bit.

photo of Dustin Volz
February 10, 2014

Internet gambling will destroy lives and homes while helping mobsters and terrorists, at least according to a new ad funded by Sheldon Adelson.

The billionaire casino magnate's anti-online-gambling group is out with its first video attempting to take down Internet gambling by likening it to a home-destroying activity that will aid money-laundering criminals and terrorists.

 

"While the FBI is busy defending against terrorist threats and cyberattacks, Internet gambling will give criminals across the world a foothold in every American household, attracting criminal activity not only at home but internationally," the ad warns, while attempting to pass off press releases and editorials that claim the activity is a "strategic national threat" as objective news reporting.

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller said last year that Internet gambling may pose some risks, including "potential for money laundering used for terrorist financing." But despite such concerns in some corners, online gambling advocates quickly pounded on the video, calling it "absurd" and "irresponsible."

"The notion that licensed and regulated Internet poker would be an attractive conduit for terrorism financing is on its face laughable," said John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, in a statement. "There isn't a shred of evidence to support this, except for far-fetched claims manufactured by this coalition."

The rhetoric of the attack ad—and its ominous backtrack and alarmist narrator—is nothing new from Adelson, who vowed last year to "spend whatever it takes" to stop online gambling in the U.S., which he has persistently lambasted as "a societal train wreck waiting to happen."

The best part? Expect more videos of this ilk to flood the Web in the weeks ahead. Today's clip, which arrives as at least 10 states are weighing legislation that would legalize or loosen restrictions on Internet gambling, is the beginning of a six-figure "awareness campaign" from Adelson's group. The ad additionally cites an FBI letter suggesting that online casinos "are vulnerable to a wide array of criminal schemes."

But the octogenarian business mogul has made it clear that no sum of money is too large for him to throw around in pursuit of any political goal. Adelson, of course, rose to national prominence during the 2012 presidential election cycle, when he spent tens of millions of dollars supporting a litany of Republican contenders. His cash infusions to Newt Gingrich's flagging campaign almost single-handedly kept the former House Speaker in the race long after it was clear he wouldn't win the nomination.

Meanwhile, the Internet gambling lobbying space is quickly getting crowded. Last week saw the launch of the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, which is in the throes of a $250,000 ad push against a federal online gambling ban.

Rep. Joe Barton's Internet Freedom Act, introduced last July, would create a market allowing the government to license and regulate online poker. States would be afforded autonomy to opt out of the system. The Texas Republican humorously suggested that God supports online gambling during a hearing in December.

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