A Newsweek cover story attacking online poker with falsehoods, scare tactics and one-sided quotes has the iGaming community up in arms. Questions about the involvement of anti-online gaming advocate Sheldon Adelson are being raised.

Critics: Article presents one-sided opinion as fact

A cover story in the national online news magazine Newsweek has drawn universal criticism from the online poker community.

The cover of the magazine’s August 22 issue pictured a sad-eyed boy holding a tablet displaying a poker hand, with the headline “Poker Face: How Washington Opened the Floodgates to Online Gambling—OK, Who’s In?” The article attacked the 2011 opinion released by the U.S. Department of Justice that reinterpreted the 1961 Wire Act as prohibiting only online sports betting, implying that there is no federal prohibition on any other form of online gaming.

The article forged ahead with the premise that the DOJ opinion “opened the floodgates” to unrestricted online gaming, quoting anti-gaming researchers and lawmakers to paint the picture that iGaming has no protections in place to prevent underage gambling, and that the decision to relax federal iGaming restrictions “may have opened a Pandora’s box” that will see other states across the U.S. following the lead of New Jersey, Delaware and New Jersey in legalizing iGaming.

“Lawmakers and experts warn that online gambling is dangerously addictive for some, especially children raised in a culture of online gaming and smartphones,” stated the article. One section of the article, subtitled “Slots for Tots,” pointed to images on social gaming sites open to children, claiming they get kids ready for real-money online poker.

The problem with the article, according to quick protests form the iGaming community, is that the only “lawmakers and experts” consulted by the author, Leah McGrath Goodman, were from the anti-iGaming side.

Poker publications like Online Poker Report and the website pounced on Goodman’s one-sided research and parroting of what they say are blatant falsehoods in the only lawmaker quotes cited, from anti-gaming U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican and Mormon who is opposed to all gambling on moral grounds.

Cardschat’s Philip Conneller complains that Goodman’s article presents as undisputed fact Chaffetz’s comments that many online gaming sites “assume players are old enough to play if they simply enter a credit card.”

“This is simply untrue of the sites regulated by the new U.S. jurisdictions,” writes Conneller. “In fact, it’s also untrue of most of the illegal offshore sites too. Discovering this, however, would require research beyond listening to the hyperbolic opinions of people like Rep. Jason Chaffetz, whom the author quotes liberally and unquestioningly.”

Chris Grove of Online Poker Report complained that the author failed even to distinguish between regulated and unregulated online gaming in the U.S., writing, “The titular ‘floodgates’ presumably relate to the fact that three states have chosen to regulate online gambling in the three years since the reinterpretation of the Wire Act, and two or three may follow, but this is hardly a deluge.

“The issue of protecting minors from gambling is a hugely important one, and the three states have worked hard to implement strict age verification processes so that this is not a problem, but there is no mention of this. In fact, the protection of minors is one of the main arguments for regulation.”

Critics complained that the author made no attempt to get opinions or data from the pro-poker side, or cite any data from the sits that are up and running either in the U.S. today or in Europe and elsewhere for more than a decade, but resorts to personal attacks on former U.S. assistant attorney general Virginia Seitz, who wrote the 2011 DOJ opinion—the author writes derisively that Seitz “voted for Obama”—and quoting experts on youth gambling to the horrors of severe addition, with no hard facts tying iGaming sites to the problem.

The pro-iGaming website pointed out that each of Goodman’s talking points in the Newsweek article is identical to one of the standard talking points of Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gaming.

“The idea that the author of this article would just so happen speak to virtually every entry in Sheldon Adelson’s Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling’s (CSIG) rolodex for usable quotes (without a single incidence of her correcting or clarifying one of these easily refutable statements) was the first sign that something may be rotten in Denmark,” wrote website author Steve Ruddock.

“The article also featured the same baseless accusations that Sheldon Adelson’s henchmen and talking heads have trotted out at one point or another over the past year, from the not-so-real link between accessibility and problem gambling, to the completely false notion that underage gambling cannot be prevented, to the technology not being able to ring-fence markets. It even touches on the nonsensical money laundering claims.”

Newsweek has not responded to any of the criticisms of the article or what critics say are easily checkable falsehoods in the article.