It's been a mystery for a while now, how the American Gaming Association and Las Vegas Sands were coexisting when on opposite sides of the online gaming issue.
While AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman was out there promoting the common-sense approach that extending gaming into the online world was a natural progression of the industry, Las Vegas Sands president and CEO Sheldon Adelson has been leading the push to federally ban internet gaming.
It turns out that they aren't, with the Wall Street Journal reporting Wednesday that the largest casino industry group in the U.S. would be pulling its support for online gaming.
Freeman told the Journal that online gaming was "an issue that the association cannot lead on" because of disagreement among major casinos.
"One of the things I've learned in this industry is we are extraordinarily competent at shooting at one another," Freeman told the Journal. "The snipers in this industry are of the highest quality, and if you let that be the focus, we'll kill each other."
Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas said this news did not come as a surprise, as the AGA had cut back on lobbying in the past couple of months.
"I think they've really scaled back on activity for some time now, it's just now becoming public that they scaled back on activity," Pappas told PokerNews in a phone interview. "There's been some other stories that the AGA is taking a neutral position now because of the split, mostly with Sands. Obviously, when reported in the Wall Street Journal it becomes a bigger story."
AGA members have been funding rival coalitions. Sands created the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, and Caesars and MGM responded by backing the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection to stop a congressional ban on online gaming.
With online poker up and running in three states and many of the casino members of the AGA operating sites, Pappas doesn't think a lack of lobbying from the AGA will have a significant impact on efforts to expand licensing and regulation on the state level.
"What we'll have is other organizations coming in to fill the void that can be laser focused on internet gaming, like the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection," Pappas said. "Obviously, the PPA will always be there, and I think individual casino companies will continue playing a major role in lobbying and funding efforts to see legalized internet poker."
It doesn't appear that the AGA members who are in favor of online gaming have an issue with the association being neutral on the issue. Back in March, MGM Resorts International CEO James Murren, who also chairs the AGA board of directors, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he wanted the association to dial down its advocacy efforts on behalf of legalizing online poker because the activity was fracturing membership.
Murren said the coalitions should be the way to battle out Internet gaming issues, leaving the AGA free to tackle other matters.
The AGA was neutral if not opposed to online gaming for more than a decade before coming around on the idea of legalizing online poker in 2010.
Freeman had been an eloquent and effective promoter of online poker since he took over as AGA's leader last July. He testified at a congressional hearing in December, with his words in conflict with those of Sands' representative Andy Abboud at the same hearing.
"Rather than pursuing more futile attempts at prohibition, the American Gaming Association supports strong regulation and oversight of online gaming that respects states' rights to pursue what is in the best interest of their residents," Freeman said at the hearing. "Make no mistake: online gaming is here to stay. The government cannot put the internet back in the bottle. As we saw with Blockbuster and the advent of online movies, industries must adapt to consumers or be left in their wake."
The AGA might no longer be lobbying for online gaming, but its arguments for why regulation is the superior option to prohibition have already been made and are public record.
"Even if they're taking a low profile on this issue again, I don't think they can back away from the comments they've already made in support of regulation," Pappas said. "We will always be able to point to those comments as a clear position of the AGA, whether or not they're out there actively supporting the matter now."
Lead image courtesy of freeimages.com.