What Do Terrorism and Online Poker Have in Common?

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

National Journal
Dustin Volz
Feb. 10, 2014, 7:11 a.m.

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4718) }}

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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