BACK PAGE: Keep movin', movin', movin'
January 19, 2012
America is about movement and this isn’t all bad. F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously wrote that there are no second acts in American lives. But he couldn’t stick around to see Jack Abramoff discuss the dangers of money in politics before the Kentucky legislature, a presentation that several lawmakers called the most compelling presentation on ethics they had ever seen.
Stick around long enough, and you just might get a second chance here. You’ll get a chance to lose it all, too. Maybe F. Scott’s point was the First Act will always be the most rewarding, but even that is highly subjective. Granted, Abramoff’s gig in Kentucky only paid a reported $5,000 plus expenses, a major comedown from his Casino Jack days, but now he gets to deal in something more closely resembling the truth, which, it is said, will set you free.
So, on occasion, will the government, as the patient professionals who have been working to bring legal and regulated online gaming to the States might attest. Last month’s determination by the Department of Justice that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting could finally set the stage for interstate gaming on the Internet. Not that we should expect to hear anything else from the federal government on the matter. This hot potato will be very gladly passed on to the states thank-you-very-much, where we can expect the same crazy-quilt approach to rules, taxation and regulation from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (those who participate, that is) that has developed on the land-based side to apply to Internet World. Should be extremely interesting.
State solutions are the only way forward because, among other things, the last thing most Warshington-based (in election years, the “r” is pronounced) legislators want to put their finger-prints on is a Big Brother Internet gaming measure, or any pro-gaming measure, for that matter. Only in America can business run off the rails mostly because of its own excesses, be bailed out by a government that failed to regulate mostly because it was paid not to (see Abramoff, Jack), turn around and blame government for the problem, and have most voters agree. A recent Gallup poll asked Americans what they fear more: Big Government or Big Business. By a 6-to-1 margin, the government boogey man won. Fear of government reflects the American passion for movement. Business moves. Government stands in the way. That’s why you could do worse than to always go with business minus the points. And keep your government hands off my Medicare.
In a basic way, the Department of Justice has given the gaming industry the chance to solve its lone real remaining distribution problem, and a significant distribution problem it is, particularly in the longer run, as entire generations start to enter their prime consumer years having only known the digital world. My 16-year-old daughter doesn’t find much of anything about me interesting these days, save for when I tell her how boys and girls in the 1970s were somehow able to congregate socially without the use of anything more sophisticated than the telephone. (“What if you weren’t home, what did you do then?” “There were pay phones, and some of them even worked.” “Oh.” Returns to texting.)
Backfilling is also happening, as we know, in Massachusetts and maybe Florida, where we will co-produce the Florida Gaming Summit on February 27-28 at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood with our partners Spectrum Gaming. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State message included not just a reiteration of his desire to expand casino gaming in the Empire State, but a $4 billion public/private partnership with Genting to build what would be the largest convention center (3.7 million square feet) in the country alongside Resorts World New York’s Aqueduct facility in Queens, not far from the JFK airport. This strikes me as a little ambitious, but anyone who doubts Cuomo’s commitment didn’t hear the raw disappointment in his voice when he said New York City ranks 12th in the meetings and conventions business. New Yorkers really don’t like to be 12th at anything.
Of course, there’s another type of movement which is a zero sum game and nothing more than an invitation to fight. Empire of the Summer Moon, S.C. Gwynne’s most excellent story of Quanah Parker, the last Comanche warrior, tells of Parker’s reliable illustration of how the white man had pushed the Indian off the land. He would tell the listener to sit on a cottonwood log, sit down close to him and say “Move over.” The listener would move. Parker would move again, sit down and repeat, “Move over.” He would continue until the listener fell off the log. “Like that.”