Online Gaming Industry ‘Super-Lobbyist’ Plan Backfired

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FT.com reported this week that PartyGaming, SportingBet and other online gambling giants paid millions of dollars to Jack Abramoff, the Washington super-lobbyist, to help them prevent the very situation the online gambling industry now finds itself in, with the anti-gambling bill only awaiting the President’s signature to become law.

It appears as though Abramoff’s demise earlier this year on criminal corruption charges opened the gates for conservative Republicans to push the law through Congress.

According to figures compiled by the Center for Public Integrity, which tracks payments made to politicians and lobbyists, SportingBet spent over $2 million since 1998 lobbying Washington
River Belle Casino politicians on issues related to online gambling.

PartyGaming admitted they are represented by International Interactive Alliance (IIA), a company that has been linked to Abramoff in the past, notably through a $1.3 million payment to Abramoff’s firm, Greenberg Traurig. IIA continues to be represented by Greenberg Traurig.

FT.com reported a PartyGaming spokesperson as defending the lobbyist payments as “good old-fashioned talking to people and presenting the arguments”.

The spokesperson added: “Jack Abramoff’s actions made the IIA one of his victims. Hindsight is easy, if we knew what we know now, then we wouldn’t have even taken Jack Abramoff out for a cup of coffee.”

PartyGaming has notified its intention to respect the new US law once the President signs the Bill, and will pull out of the US market. PartyGaming and SportingBet have seen the value of their stock plummet since the Bill passed through the Senate, and it may take them years to return to the giddy heights the two online gambling giants occupied earlier this year.

Knowing what we know now, some industry executives will be wondering why they didn’t take the entire Washington lobbyist industry out for a cup of coffee earlier this year.