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Posted by on Mar 19, 2014 in Blog | 8 comments

Andy Abboud Melts Down at IGaming North America Conference




Sheldon Adelson’s Shill Spokesman Craps Out in Moderated Debate — Calls Opponents “Twitter Creeps,” then Admits to being “Lost” on High-Tech Issues as Hundreds in Audience Gasp in Disbelief



Within the first few minutes of his opening remarks, I actually felt sorry for Andy Abboud.

After all, the Senior Vice-President of Government Relations for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, and longtime loyalist to Sheldon Adelson, appeared to be a good sport.  Earlier today, he courageously entered a lions’ den at Planet Hollywood, taking a hot seat directly opposite Caesars Interactive Entertainment CEO, Mitch Garber.  No doubt, Mr. Abboud knew he wasn’t likely to win over any converts among this relatively sophisticated crowd, comprised almost exclusively of hard-core supporters of legalized and regulated online poker inside the United States (and to a lesser extent — casino gambling and sports betting).

Mr. Abboud started off quite well.  In fact, after listening to the first quarter of the debate, I thought Mr. Garber, who was arguing the pro-online poker side, had fully met his match.  Mr. Abboud expressed his concerns about legalized online poker effectively, and even managed to land a few talking points.  As I watched all this, hanging on every spoken word from the fifth row of giant conference room , I mused to myself that I’d like to meet Mr. Abboud afterward.  He seemed cordial, respectful, and appeared to have even done some homework.

But as the 45-minute debate continued, it became painfully obvious that if Mr. Abboud had done any homework, he’d been studying the wrong textbook.  Adelson’s longtime spokesman made at least three monumental gaffes, two of which brought gasps of disbelief from many who were sitting in the audience, most of whom paid up to $1,600 to attend the three-day conference mixer.

About midway into the debate, Mr. Abboud talked about a high-tech presentation he attended which was about online poker.  The presentation provided information about industry safeguards, security, operations, support, and other facets of the details that go into running an online poker site.  As Mr. Abboud was telling his story, on his own and without provocation, he admitted “they lost me,” causing astonishment among many in the crowd.  Just to make it clear — the person debating about online poker’s impact, the person who cites concerns about underage gambling, addiction problems, money laundering, and so forth says “they lost me,” when the industry safeguards were explained to him?  Unfortunately, the follow-up question no one got to ask was, “so then why are you up there telling this industry’s own experts about their business?”

Next, there was the blatant lie told by Mr Abboud which few people in the audience seemed to catch.  Once again, without any provocation, speaking about the Sands Corporation which owns The Venetian, Mr. Abboud said “our position (against online poker) has always been consistent.”  Oh really?  Has it?  Many of us remember very well a hugely-successful poker event held at The Venetian in February 2010.  I was present.  It was called the “North American Poker Tour,” which just so happens to be owned and operated by the online site PokerStars.  By the way, The Venetian did a very nice job with that.  Thanks, Mr. Abboud.  So much for “consistency.”  LINK HERE

But nothing triggered more jaws dropping throughout the room than Mr. Abboud’s comment in the final minutes of the debate.  Up until that point, he’d largely remained on point.  He’d held his emotions in check.  One could say he’d done well, given the challenges.  Then, he melted down completely.

For unknown reasons, Mr. Abboud decided to take an unwarranted shot at the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) and poker player activism.  As he was discussing the future prospects of legalized online poker Mr. Abboud said, “….then, you have the PPA and all their creepy Twitter followers….”

Huh?  What did he just say?

Just about everyone I was around looked at each other in stunned disbelief.  There were audible gasps from many sitting in the audience (likely the PPA’s Twitter followers).  Later, several observers gathered outside the room expressed utter shock that poker player activists would be called “creepy,” by someone no less with the title of “President of Government Relations.”

I wish Mr. Abboud had done well.  At least, I wish he had done better.  That would enable us to have more healthy debates on this topic and reach more people.

Unfortunately, that might not happen again given the limited forums of potential engagement.  Moreover, if I was in Sheldon Adleson’s camp, I’d start looking for a different messenger.  Maybe someone who doesn’t get “lost” on matters of high-tech.  Someone who knows The Venetian’s incestuous past with an online site.  Someone who doesn’t describe the opposition as “creepy.”

I’ll have more on the debate between Andy Abboud and Mitch Garber in the next post, which contains (what I think were) the most effective sound-bite points made by both sides.


Note:  I wish to extend an added note of thanks to Sue Schneider, IGaming North America’s President and Organizer, as well as Marco Valerio for their kindness and courtesy during the conference, which runs March 19-21.



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Posted by on Mar 17, 2014 in Blog, Las Vegas, Rants and Raves, Restaurant Reviews | 19 comments

A Nation of Tip Jars




We’ve become a nation of tip jars.

They’re everywhere.

Dry cleaners?  Tip jar.

The local deli?  Tip jar.

Take out pizza?  Tip jar.

Pet grooming?  Tip jar.

Oli change and auto lube?  Tip jar.

Starbucks?  Tip jar.

Ice cream shops?  Tip jars.

But nothing screams “what the fuck!” louder than the scene I witnessed last week here in Las Vegas.  Sitting atop the glass counter above all kinds of expensive gold and diamond jewelry was — a tip jar.  I shit you not.

At a jewelry store!

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Posted by on Mar 12, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Las Vegas | 0 comments

Remembering Jackie Gaughan


Jackie Gaughan in 1965

Casino pioneer Jackie Gaughan in 1965, in front of his El Cortez Hotel and Casino


The name Jackie Gaughan may not be familiar to as many people as it should.

So, please allow me to take some time to tell you why this man was important, and so beloved, by so many, for so long.

Mr. Gaughan was one of the last surviving of Las Vegas’ early pioneers.  He was cast in the same mold as his iconic contemporaries — including Benny Binion, Bill Harrah, and Sam Boyd — all legends who embodied the casinos they built along with the reputations they earned and established over decades of changes within Las Vegas and the gambling industry, earning universal respect and admiration.

I just learned Mr. Gaughan passed away last night.  He was 93.

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Posted by on Mar 9, 2014 in Blog, Movie Reviews, Personal | 2 comments

Meeting Tobey Maguire (Part 1)




Time for another poker story.

This one involves actor Tobey Maguire, probably best known for his role as “Spiderman.”  He’s appeared in several noteworthy films over the years, including Pleasantville (1998), The Cider House Rules (1999), Wonder Boys (2000), Seabiscuit (2003), and most recently The Great Gatsby (2013).

I’ve had several direct encounters with Maguire in the past, all relating to my work in poker.

During the poker boom several Hollywood “A-Listers” began playing poker regularly.  They not only joined private games held mostly in Los Angeles, but also attended major poker tournaments.  Some of these actors are still a part of the game today, most notably — Jennifer Tilly and James Woods.  [See Footnote 1]

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Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Blog, Las Vegas | 0 comments

Doing It Doggie Style




Sorry to disappoint everyone, but today’s post isn’t about sex.

It’s about dogs, namely two cutesy canines I saw yesterday while driving on the streets of Las Vegas.

These weren’t your typical mutts.  To the contrary, these dogs know how to travel in style.

The photograph below is a close up-shot of a doggie driver who looks like he’s about ready to start the engine and drive away.  Gee, I wonder if he flashes his middle paw out the window and barks when other drivers cut him off in traffic?  And, how come he’s not wearing a seat belt?

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