I’ve been a fan of John Stossel, and his willingness to call bullshit on conventional wisdom, since the days I started noticing the difference between good journalism and bad. He has since moved from ABC News to Fox, where his libertarian shtick is a tea-party-friendly line of fiscal conservatism that challenges the moral contingent who want to impose on personal freedoms. Thus, the newest cause he’s taken up (at least for a week) is gambling … specifically online gambling.
Stossel outs himself as a recreational poker player in an episode of his namesake show on Fox Business that aired Thursday: Bans on Betting.
The show re-aired throughout the weekend, and will be on one more time tonight, Sunday, at 10 PM ET.
His efforts to bring the online gambling issue to the fore last week extended far beyond his own show. Here he is on The O’Reilly Factor:
While Stossel makes quite the issue of state lottery hypocrisies, O’Reilly seems to have little clue about the prominence of internet gambling, and thus presumably how big and evolved the industry has become. However, the speed in which someone can go broke seems to be important to people who don’t get the awesomeness of Rush Poker.
Also check out his latest syndicated column, which ran in newspapers across the country last week: Leave the Gamblers Alone!
In it he speaks to Chad Hills of Focus on the Family and Andy Bloch representing the online gambling side. I’d typically include a blockquote here, but almost every paragraf leads to another one worthy of cut-and-paste, so just click and read the whole thing. (Kinda cool that he ledes with a bit about police raiding a VFW hall — hey, I know where he learned about that!)
You’ll likely see more of this debate moving forward. Mix the timing of the main event with the UIGEA deadline, some criminal investigations, and legislation … and suddenly media who don’t rely on online-poker-site press releases have a storyline with some teeth. And if any players regularly seen on TV end up in handcuffs — “Perp Walk with the Pros” — then they’ve really got a few hedlines, for better or for worse. In some respects, the attention that would bring could
be huge for ESPN ratings! actually help the online poker industry finally get what they’ve long wanted, albeit probably not the way they wanted.
Of course, with the mainstream media trying to get a handle on poker issues, they’ll undoubtedly get a few things wrong. But in bringing our issues to light, Stossel’s recent TV appearances provide a pretty good read on where things currently stand for online gambling … and where poker interests may have fallen short in getting the message out that we all practically know by heart.
A few examples become obvious on Megyn Kelly’s daytime show, America Live:
* Kelly claims 2/3 of American public want internet gambling to stay illegal. I’m pretty sure there are studies out there that say exactly the opposite, but for some reason she didn’t get word of those, and pretty much dismisses Stossel when he questions the veracity of her numbers.
* Stossel brings up odds, and why the lottery preys on poor people. This woulda been a good time for him to explain how poker is different from other forms of gambling … apparently not everyone understands that.
* Stossel is a string-bettor.
* Barney Frank wouldn’t appear on Stossel’s show. WTF? Supposedly because Stossel offended him with a joke, but I’m wondering if we won’t be seeing Barney for some reason or another until after June 1.
And then on Varney & Co. on Fox Business:
* He explains the crackdown on payment processors.
* Again, more lottery talk.
* They discuss setting up a poker operation online … at which point Stossel jumps on the personal freedom issues, but doesn’t clarify that the example given couldn’t apply, because poker isn’t played against a house.
* Tax revenue shouldn’t be the big reason for legalizing online gambling?
* Gambling a better vice than marijuana? Hmm, that’s a tough call …