Dear Mr. Adelson,
My mother, may she rest in peace, taught me the importance of letter writing. I still vividly remember the silver pen she insisted I use 25 years ago to hand-write each and every single thank-you note for bar mitzvah presents I received. As a 13-year-old boy, it drove me mad trying to devise hundreds of different ways to say “thank you so much for the generous gift,” but as a 38-year-old man I now understand the life lessons that can be learned from such an exercise: saying thank-you is tremendously important, and it’s just as important to find the right words with which to address each individual.
This is a letter I’ve wanted to write for a very long time, Mr. Adelson, and now that I’ve finally found the courage to do so, I hope that I’ve also found the right words.
About seven years ago, you inaugurated your namesake School of Entrepreneurship at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported your motto as being “Always challenge the status quo” and quoted you as saying that “Entrepreneurship is essentially identifying the path that everyone takes; and choosing a different, better way.”
I am self-employed and work on the media side of the poker industry. Frankly, sir, I am dissatisfied with our industry’s status quo, and I am hopeful that you can help me change it for the better. In a nutshell, I would like to open a discussion with regard to your position on online poker.
Mr. Adelson, you currently do not have many friends in our industry. In the decade that I have been involved in poker, I have yet to see a single individual of standing in the poker industry who does not work for one of your companies speak in your favor. Unfortunately, the only context in which I have ever seen your name mentioned in poker media and in the greater poker community on social media platforms over the last 10 years has been a negative one. Boycotts, petitions, rallies against you, vitriolic rants that would make a sailor blush; there’s a substantial amount of resentment against you in poker circles due to your position against legalizing online poker in the United States and extensive efforts to stifle any such initiative.
I understand this resentment. When online poker “as we knew it” disappeared in the United States in April 2011, many people’s way of life was irreversibly altered. The famed Poker Boom years came to an abrupt halt as legions of players and industry personnel lost their livelihoods. This caused many folks to leave the poker world for other professional pastures, but the underlying desire to keep playing poker and be free to do so online from the comfort of one’s own home has never waned.
I desperately wish that online poker were legal throughout the United States. The benefits to our industry would be almost impossible to imagine.
Federally regulated online poker means one massive player pool; bigger prizes, more investment from operators, more sponsored shows on TV, etc.
Pre-Black Friday this happened and mainstream media couldn’t get enough.
What I’m saying is it’s the first step.
— Robbie Strazynski (@cardplayerlife) May 17, 2020
With that said, I don’t personally subscribe to the path that so many in the industry have taken towards that goal; specifically that of antagonizing you.
I don’t see you as our enemy, Mr. Adelson. I also don’t view you through a one-dimensional prism that could cause hate to fester. As a matter of fact, it’s entirely the opposite.
I live in Karnei Shomron, in our beloved State of Israel. I made Aliyah from Los Angeles over 20 years ago and am proud to be raising my children in the Land of Our Forefathers.
Your support for our country is practically unparalleled. Your patronage of the Birthright Israel initiative, founding of drug treatment clinics, investment in our high-tech companies, and tremendous generosity towards a multitude of charitable initiatives both public and private are praiseworthy beyond measure.
I believe that you are a good man, and as inspiring as I find your personal journey to be, of having reached the heights of success from humble roots, that’s only superseded by my admiration for your incredible philanthropy.
Mr. Adelson, I believe that you, too, can appreciate the perspective of those who wish for legalized online poker in the United States. It’s well known that for years you’ve longed to build a casino here in Israel, specifically in Eilat. That’s something I also wish for. To that effect, in the past I wrote a lengthy, detailed opinion piece in the Times of Israel, also proposing the Dead Sea resorts area as a possible natural fit for such an establishment.
It’s quite frustrating to have one’s dreams not be able to materialize due to the staunch opposition and complete inflexibility of people who hold opposing views. If only we were more open to listening to one another rather than talking past one another, some compromise that both sides would find suitable could possibly be worked out.
As an Orthodox Jew, my own views on gambling –– poker specifically –– aren’t widely supported among members of my community. Eye rolls, skepticism and occasionally even downright scorn greet me when I tell others what I do for a living. By the same token, as expressed above, my views on you are likely not widely shared by most poker players and my fellow members of the poker industry, and it’s quite possible I’ll encounter some of those same eye rolls, skepticism, and perhaps even downright scorn for publishing this.
While on a far smaller scale than you, sir, I’m also an entrepreneur. I’ve identified the way others have approached burning issues in the poker world and quite often I do things a bit differently.
I wonder if we must still be compelled to have our daggers out on the online poker legalization issue? Perhaps the time has come to beat our swords into plowshares and extend the proverbial olive branch to one another.
In all the years that legalizing online poker in the United States has been a hot button issue, I don’t believe we’ve ever heard you personally speak on the matter.
Parties that have represented your interests have pointed to legitimate concerns over the safety of minors. Over the last decade and a half, massive strides have been taken to beef up online poker security. Moreover, I know of no single instance –– at least since I’ve entered the business –– where underaged persons have been permitted to play at licensed, regulated online poker sites.
These parties have also expressed your very valid worry that online poker would cannibalize land-based poker and threaten some of your business interests. In fact, however, land-based and online poker have proven to have a symbiotic relationship over the years. Should you choose to enter the market with your own online poker site, you would create numerous new jobs as well as boost overall competition, which on the whole has always been good for any industry.
Surely whatever concerns you have and whatever reasons for your opposition could be worked through with those in our industry who also wish for a safe gaming environment online. I’m positive that plenty of interested, talented professionals would jump at the opportunity to speak with and collaborate with you on the matter. Together, some sort of memorandum of understanding could be reached via which our mutual interests could be addressed and met.
Should you decide to cease your opposition and instead advocate for federally regulated U.S. online poker, it would stand to reason that such legislation would pass swiftly and we could move ahead to a new, safer era in which poker could boom once again online.
Our sadly scandal-ridden industry suffers directly and deeply from the fact that an unsafe, unpoliced, unauthorized scene prevails on the online poker front. Unregulated online sites, questionable mobile apps, and the like pollute the poker scene to a truly frightening degree.
I’d posit that our Black Friday, though incredibly damaging, was an important day of reckoning for the poker world. In modern times, a Wild West-like environment cannot be allowed to flourish rather than the rule of law.
Our industry has greatly matured in the last decade. Well-meaning people genuinely wish to provide those who wish to play online poker with a safe, regulated way to do just that, and every day that passes without such a system in place just adds to the likelihood of the next poker scandal surfacing.
What a shame to have our beautiful game so sullied and stained. The time is ripe for us all to stop accepting this status quo and be proactive to do something about it.
My belief is that legalizing online poker is the answer. My belief is that you, Mr. Adelson, can come to our industry’s rescue.
Perhaps what’s held you back from engaging in a discussion on this matter for so long is a feeling that there’s nobody open-minded enough, conscious of your interests, and who can identify with your background.
Well, here I am, sir.
To whatever extent possible I would be happy to assist in facilitating such discussions between yourself and the right experts and professionals in the poker world. Let’s see if we can all find some common ground. With your input, online poker legislation could better protect the vulnerable with more robust regulations and responsible gaming protocols.
I hope that somehow this letter reaches you. I know you are an incredibly busy man, and that your attention is in high demand. As such, if you have read these words, I just want to thank you so much for your time. I hope to have the good fortune to meet you someday, sir, and that together we can make a celebratory L’chaim.
Wishing you happiness and good health, until 120.