Despite planned boycott, players are all in at Venetian poker tables
At the stroke of midnight Monday, a boycott of the poker room at Sheldon Adelson's Venetian began.
But virtually no change was visible Monday afternoon. Dozens of visitors crowded the tables.
The only sign of a boycott was online, where local poker pros took to blogs to rage over Adelson's aggressive campaign against online gambling. The disgruntled players appeared to be the only ones taking part in the five-day boycott.
"This isn’t a fight about profits," poker insider Nolan Dalla, who sparked the protest in a widely read blog post, wrote June 27. "It’s about making a statement. Let’s do whatever we can to create an empty poker room for five straight days."
While the Venetian's poker room was far from empty Monday, Dalla said the overwhelming response from the poker community made the boycott a personal victory in his mind.
“Frankly, I don’t think there is a metric to measure how effective the boycott will be,” Dalla said. "This was about awareness, and to that end, we have been successful.”
Ron Reese, spokesman of Las Vegas Sands Corp., declined to comment.
Dalla called for the boycott after Adelson described online gaming as “a societal train wreck waiting to happen” and launched a website urging lawmakers to vote against online gaming, which he argued “is not a good bet for the future of America.”
Dalla and other local poker pros contend that Adelson’s aversion to Internet gambling is counterproductive to Las Vegas and damaging to the industry.
“Las Vegas has the opportunity to be the New York City of online gambling,” said Frank Kasella, a two-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner from Tennessee who now lives in Las Vegas. “The way that city is successful financially, Las Vegas can be successful with online gambling.”
But for that to happen, gaming industry giants have to stand together to keep the city ahead of the competition, Kasella said. Adelson’s refusal to cooperate shows a lot about his character, he added.
A handful of poker pros vowed never to play at the Venetian again.
Shaun Deeb, a New York player with two final table appearances under his belt, said it has been frustrating to hear such a powerful man slinging negative opinions.
Adelson is "really attacking our growth as an industry," Deeb said.
Still, other players have been reluctant to follow Dalla’s lead.
Linda Johnson, who was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame in 2011, disapproves of the boycott.
“I can’t go along,” she wrote on Dalla's blog. “Moreover, I don’t want to see any of the employees hurt who work at the Venetian.”
Dalla contends the boycott doesn't threaten the local work force.
“Some people have questioned the impact of this boycott on working people,” Dalla said. “I want those people to consider the position Sheldon Adelson has taken. It could cost Nevada the thousands of jobs online gambling could create.”
Even with a boycott, Kasella doubts Adelson will change his tune.
But supporters will send their message nevertheless.
“We’re here," Kasella said. "We’re important. Help us make the business the best it can be for everybody.”