Corporate Censors: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Stephen Yagielowicz

LOS ANGELES — Corporate censorship or unfair competition? That is the question that website owners across a variety of market segments are asking today as disturbing stories are emerging about the lengths that some companies will go to, to stifle their competition.

For example, if the pious sounding “Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling” has its way, consumers won’t be able to legally enjoy real online casino action from within the U.S.— but is this cause-backed campaign merely more moral meddling by religious groups?

According to the Associated Press, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling is poised as an advocacy group with plans for a January launch. Its goal is to fuel a public campaign portraying online gaming as a danger to children (of course), as well as to the poor and “others who could be exploited by easy access to Internet betting.”

Rather than being backed by a church, however, this group is backed by a casino mogul.

The Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling is the brainchild of Las Vegas Sands Corp. CEO Sheldon Adelson, a billionaire who made his fortune in Sin City and who now seems to be determined to keep the pie for himself, by working to ban online gambling everywhere in the United States. Adult entertainment business owners will be familiar with properties such as The Venetian, which is owned by Adelson.

No one-man operation, Adelson has reportedly brought lobbyists and public relations experts together in a staff of several dozen for his Coalition, busily preparing for what will be perhaps the most heavily lobbied debate of 2014.

New Jersey Sen. Ray Lesniak, the sponsor of legalized Internet gambling in New Jersey, will attempt to squash Adelson’s efforts; explaining that such a ban would lead to the loss of billions in revenue, hundreds of millions of dollars in state tax revenue and thousands of jobs as the state readies for a wave of legal online gaming and those much needed jobs.

“We already have given the legal authority for Internet gaming in New Jersey, and state regulators have done a good job in reviewing and authorizing licenses for online gaming businesses,” Lesniak says. “Imposing a federal ban on Internet gambling for New Jersey would be an economic catastrophe.”

It is a great example of how opposition (or support) should rarely be taken at face value, since one never knows who is pulling the strings behind the scenes, or why.

For example, some observers may wonder if Google’s burying of adult website links is not an act of censorship (regardless of how the company portrays it) but a way of moving audiences away from adult videos and over to, say, YouTube videos. Perhaps then it is no coincidence that the drop in adult website visits mirrors the rise of YouTube’s popularity.

This type of speculation is one of the unintended consequences of corporate censorship run amok —and the swindling of support for a position under potentially false pretexts. Consumers can no longer trust the companies they rely upon, or others they have never even heard of, because those companies are working in ways that will impact their lives.

The only effective countermeasure to special interests trying to selfishly sway Congress and other legislators for the benefit of their businesses or beliefs is through public outcry.

“We don’t make a habit of picking fights with billionaires,” John Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance says. “But in this case, I think we’ll win, because millions of Americans who want to play online will oppose this legislation, along with dozens and dozens of states that want the freedom to authorize any kind of gaming they see fit.”

With millions of British Internet users having their porn supply cut off by bureaucratic bumblers, it is a situation that hits close to home for adult entertainment website owners, because gambling is simply another form of “adult entertainment” — and porn is also a market segment that is targeted by zealots backed by questionable motives; making this a developing story that is well worth watching.