Preemptive, Strategic Expansion of US Gambling Operations

Casino owners, gambling proprietors and online betting companies have geared up to make a big push for legalization of gambling in key locations across the United States.  Several large casino-operators have planted lobbyists in the capital cities of the target states to grease the wheels of progress in their battle against existing Federal or State law while other gambling companies have begun lobbying at the national level.  All involved seem to be betting on their own success by placing their respective companies in positions to attack and cash in on the open market once their hard work and political scheming pay off.

In a preemptive move to reap the benefit of liberalized online gambling laws across the United States, Isle of Man based Playtech and New York based Scientific Games created a joint venture called SciPlay International.  The joint venture focuses on providing systems for gaming operators to offer Internet gaming solutions in a manner that is consistent with applicable “regulatory regimes”.   Together, SciPlay and Playtech recently inked a deal with the California Online Poker Association (COPA).  COPA is a consortium of 29 California Indian Tribal Casinos and 31 licensed Card Room Operators looking to expand their operations into the online realm.  In order to capitalize on this contract, SciPlay and COPA want to see online poker and gambling laws changed to allow cash bets in domestic games.

Robert Martin, Chairman of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians and a member of COPA’s Board of Managers said, “It has been estimated that Californians wager more than $13 billion annually on illegal, offshore internet poker websites. Our mission is to provide California players with a safe and secure option to play poker legally on the internet.”  SciPlay will develop online poker systems for COPA that will run as “play for fun” until their combined lobbying effort eliminates the aforementioned ‘regime’.  US Congressman Joe Barton is the designated hitter pushing the legislation that will exempt California from the Federal Law prohibiting online gambling.  After passing the legislation through the Energy and Commerce Commitee and the House, it should face little resistance in a Senate helmed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who happens to be on this industries side.   Reid has been bought and paid for by the Casino Operators of Nevada with donations/bribes from MGM, Harrahs, Boyd Gaming and the Station Casinos.  Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., also has legislation, and Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee are also supporting initiatives to expand gambling operations.

At the state level, Alabama Republican State Representative Barry Mask recently testified that Alabama-based Casino Victoryland offered very significant political contributions in exchange for drafting and passing legislation allowing Victoryland Operators to continue their online Bingo operation with no oversight from the Governor’s gambling taskforce. This is an rare example of exposed political malfeasance that runs rampant at every level of government.  Lobbyists and Political Action Committees dumping millions in contributions into the accounts of politicians have become the status-quo, especially after the Federal Government relaxed regulation of where contributions come from and how much can be donated. Law is now controlled by corporate puppeteers, stringing up senators and representatives who at one time represented the people.  Often times, questionable or outright illegal manipulation of the system goes unnoticed, allowing highly profitable corporations to secure the necessary government support to ensure an even more profitable future.  Is it any wonder that many of the above operators are so confident in their coming political success?

Just to the south in Florida, the landmark Miami Herald building adjacent to downtown and the MacArthur Causeway has been sold to Casino Operator, Genting Berhad.  Based in Malaysia, Genting Berhad is among the world’s largest international gambling operations.  Paying over $236 million for the 14 acre water-front property and planning a $13 BILLION development project for the site, Genting Berhad certainly isn’t all-in, but this bet puts a lot of chips on the table.  Currently, gambling is illegal in Florida outside of the various race tracks, jai-alai facilities and Indian gambling operations run locally by the Miccosukee and Seminole bands of Indians.  After a weaker version of legislation was defeated in March of 2011, many operators and their respective operatives hope to resume efforts to pass legislation at the opening of the Fall 2011 session aimed specifically at the South Florida region.  The operators hope to create a new gambling mecca in the Caribbean which harkens back to the glory days in Havana and will become a tropical Las Vegas.

All this, however, cannot be accomplished without first reaching into Casino operators’ deep pockets to inject some capital-influence into the problem.  Just because the House and Senate are out of session, Lobbyists and corporate operatives aren’t on vacation.  Las Vegas Sands Corporation’s operative and point-man in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee, Nick Iarossi, is confident that Casinos preemptive investments will pay off soon saying,  “I think we’ve got a good shot to get it done during this 2012 session.  We’ve gotten some encouraging signs from key members of the legislature, on both sides of the House, as well as the governor’s office.  We’re going to make an all-out effort to get it done this session.”  He said Genting, Wynn Resort, MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment were all part of the lobbying effort in Tallahassee.

Of course, gambling isn’t the only industry that employs lobbyists. And making just over $46 million in political contributions last year doesn’t make it the spendyist.  But the gambling industry is undeniably one of America’s greatest vices along with a few other unsavory, highly-addictive industries existing on the fringe of the mainstream US culture.  It is a potential and acknowledged danger for both young and old alike that can provide a great deal of entertainment and a great deal of regret.  This being the case, proliferation must be carefully controlled and moderation must be implemented by those who represent the American people.  It is up to these individuals to think of the best interest and well-being of constituents and not corporations and when the normal legislative process is circumvented with financial manipulation,  a very important dissenting voice is effectively silenced.  The arrogance of Casino operators’ major financial moves preempting legislation that would legitimize those moves should highlight their confidence in a system that they now completely control.

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