Adelson’s iGaming Opposition Carries Over to Live Tournament

Written By Steve Ruddock on June 10, 2014
Adelson bans Poker News from MSPT event

A strange story appeared on the Internet late last week when PokerFuse and several other outlets reported that was barred from reporting on the Mid Stakes Poker Tour (MSPT) at the Venetian.

What makes this story all the more strange is that PokerNews is the primary sponsor of the tournament series, and what is considered a very non-controversial website.

The immediate question that people had was whether this had anything to do with Adelson’s efforts to ban online gambling considering PokerNews is one of the biggest online affiliates in the world and a widely read outlet for online poker news and information – I’m sure there are a few anti-Adelson articles on there as well.

The early indications were yes, but the Venetian’s initial “no comments,” along with PokerNews initially saying they did not know the cause of the ban, left people speculating on whether the barring of PokerNews came down from the top, or if the outlet was sent packing for another reason.

I for one was not convinced, as it seemed like a very petty reason to bar the outlet from reporting on the MSPT, almost unreasonable in a “I’m taking my ball and going home” kind of way.

Well, we now have our answer as both PokerNews and the Venetian have confirmed that they were barred from reporting because of the online gambling relationships between PokerNews and providers. So chalk up another one in the I was wrong column.

“Given our Chairman’s clear position on the matter of online gaming, the Venetian / Palazzo made a business decision to not allow an online blog during the Mid-States Poker Tour event,” Kathy Raymond, Executive Director of Poker Operations at The Venetian, told PokerNews in a statement.

“It is now clear this was another political stiff arm against our industry that Sheldon Adelson is behind,” said PokerNews Editor-in-Chief Donnie Peters on Saturday. “It is unfortunate that one man’s stance against poker holds such strength — and yes, I do mean poker as a whole and not just online poker, because Adelson is without a doubt hurting the overall growth of the game the more he fights against the virtual variant.”

Poker world torn over how to handle Venetian

So why do poker players continue to frequent the Venetian? Several boycotts have been hinted at / attempted, but the Venetian is considered one of the nicer poker properties in the world (which is a shame) with an excellent room and excellent staff.

Some people feel a boycott only hurts the staff in the poker room, while others feel a boycott sends a very clear message even if it doesn’t hurt Adelson and the Venetian financially.

Needless to say, this is a tough spot for poker players to be in. Here is my previous take on a Venetian boycott.

Is this a misstep by Adelson?

As mentioned above, the move itself reeks of pettiness, and in my opinion will likely have some unintended consequences for Adelson and his cohorts – It’s a move that I would have advised against for several reasons:

  • It paints PokerNews as the victim, and Adelson and the Venetian as using bully tactics.

If you want public support one of the best ways to gain is to appear as the victim. Adelson has been trying to paint online gambling advocates as wanting to impose their will on the rest of society.

With his recent actions against PokerNews it now appears that Adelson is the one trying to force his beliefs down everyone’s throats and will stoop to petty tactics such as this to get it done.

  • The MSPT is a small scale poker tour that would have garnered little attention, especially while the WSOP is taking place down the road.

Honestly, the MSPT coverage is not widely read and is barely a blip on the poker radar when it’s the only tournament series taking place.

PokerNews coverage of the tournament at the Venetian would have come and gone like a ship in the night. Instead he turned it into a fiasco that garnered a lot more press, and made his property look quite unreasonable.

  • From an outsiders point of view this is the move of an aggrieved person who feels he is losing the fight; nobody, and I mean nobody has sympathy for the “I’m taking my ball and going home” guy.

Want to know who is winning a fight? Just look to see which side starts making desperate, illogical actions. This move by Adelson and the Venetian seems akin to a boxer coming out in the 10th round and needing a knockout, swinging wildly.

  • It opens up Adelson to new lines of attack.

It’s not lost on anyone that Adelson once hosted PokerStars branded tournaments at the Venetian, so once again his current stance on online gambling appears to be more fiscal and less moral, while Adelson claims otherwise.

So thank you for giving poker advocates yet another avenue of attack to use against you. It’s ok for PokerStars to come into the Venetian in 2011 (when they are for all intents and purposes afoul of US law) and plaster their brand all over the place, but it’s not ok for PokerNews (who in 2014 has not a single online advertisement that runs counter to current US law) to report on a tournament series they sponsor.

Notice Sheldon didn’t boot the MSPT, just PokerNews.

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Steve Ruddock

Steve is a well-recognized voice in the regulated U.S. online gambling industry. He writes for a number of online and print publications including, USA Today, and others, with a focus on the legal market.

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