Boycotting brick and mortar poker rooms is a bad idea
August 12, 2014 3:01 AM
by Robert Turner
I’ve worked hard to improve and expand poker over the years, and I was dismayed when I read an article recommending poker players boycott The Venetian and Wynn. That’s a bad idea on many levels, and I’ll tell you why.
About 24 years ago, we tried to boycott the Caesars Palace poker room because they didn’t offer players a buffet. Caesars’ response? They closed it. Their poker room accounted for about one-half of one percent of their revenue, so rather than bow to players’ demands, they simply shut it down, and increased their profits by replacing poker tables with slot machines.
Calling for a boycott of the Venetian and Wynn poker rooms because their owners, Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, pour money into campaigns to stop online gambing, including online poker, will not work either.
The anti-online gambling lobbying group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), funded by Adelson and the Las Vegas Sands, is said to have received $460,000 in its first six months of existence. Adelson has pledged to spend as much money as it takes to stop online gambling from expanding, and I take him at his word.
But no boycott can be large enough to have any effect on the bottom line of either casino, and no amount of lobbying directed at either man will change his mind.
Adelson clearly supports poker; he built a multi-million-dollar poker room in the middle of the Venetian casino that I think is the most beautiful in the world. He also has a large poker room in his Macau casino.
Both Wynn and Adelson will be keynote speakers at the upcoming 2014 G2E (Global Gaming Expo) in Las Vegas. Wynn will deliver his address on September 30, and Adelson is scheduled to speak on October 1. According to Jocelyn Wood of Pokerfuse.com, Adelson is expected to expound on his opposition to online gaming in the United States. Like you, I will be very interested in what both men have to say.
Let’s look at the recent history of poker. Many believe the poker boom started when Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP, but that wasn’t the case. The boom began because of the vehicle that gave Moneymaker the opportunity to win his bracelet: online poker.
How big was online poker? I believe it was in 2003 that, without any warning, about 25 naked girls, wearing only body paint with the name of a poker site on their backs, marched into the Horseshoe poker room and then onto Fremont Street, creating a huge commotion and startling players and onlookers alike. Welcome to the online poker explosion!
Suddenly, fresh money was pouring into the poker world, and online players were being sponsored. Brick-and-mortar casinos responded by building new poker rooms and creating new tournaments, and the game is still growing worldwide today.
The WSOP owes its current success to online poker; without it, we’d never see the huge fields and enormous payouts we have now. When online poker was outlawed in 2006, Caesars created the WSOP circuit events, allowing them to get in on the action and claim their slice of the poker revenue pie.
While online poker introduced the game to many new players, Black Friday forced many players, new and old, out of the action. With much of that pool of new players gone for good, the expansion of poker now rests on the shoulders of casino operators like Adelson and Wynn.
Supporting their poker rooms is actually good for poker, not bad. We need those rooms filled with players – old and new – to keep the game fresh and to attract more people to the game we love.
While most of us can’t play online, cardrooms around the world are opening and expanding at a record pace, so whether you’re in Florida, California, Nevada, or even Macau, you can find a table to suit your preferences.
Ironically, boycotting a poker room in a casino whose revenues do not rely on poker can only hurt our game, and won’t serve to advance or expand online poker. If players can’t play online, and people refuse to patronize a casino’s poker room, then we might as well all fold and call it a day.
Just yesterday, the California legislature tabled an online poker bill for the year, which means until 2015 at the earliest, online poker will only remain legal in three states: Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. If Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson have their way, online poker will remain illegal in the other 47 states for many years to come, boycott or not.
I hope you’ll join me at the tables in the Venetian and Wynn poker rooms instead of joining the call for a boycott.
Remember, Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn both know poker tables are a lot less profitable than slot machines. That’s why it all boils down to one simple fact: we need them a lot more than they need us. Let’s shuffle up and deal!
Robert Turner is a legendary poker player and billiard marketing expert, best known for inventing the game of Omaha poker and introducing it to Nevada in 1982 and to California in 1986. In the year 2000, he created World Team Poker, the first professional league for poker. He has over 30 years experience in the gaming industry and is co-founder of Crown Digital Games. Twitter @thechipburnerRobert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.