RE: 60 Minutes to Air AP/UB Story

“Hatchet job” or “good for poker” or both?

by , Nov 26, 2008 | 6:38 am

There’s been much talk online and off- about the long-awaited 60 Minutes story on the AP/UB cheating scandals — which we now know will air Sunday, to be seen by some 15 million viewers, far more than the 1.9 million who tuned in to see Peter Eastgate follow in Jerry Yang’s footsteps.

The generally spot-on Wicked Chops, for example, have been calling it a “hatchet job”. Well-informed poker-biz insiders have told me privately it’s going to be “terrible for poker”. I’ve even heard some say the WSOP’s cooperating with CBS will prove to be “Jeffrey Pollack’s downfall”.

I respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree.

The fear, of course, is that the piece will end up condemning the entire industry. But look, 60 Minutes doesn’t exactly have a history of botching stories in its 41 years on the air. They typically get pretty darn close to The Truth. There may be some short-term backlash to the not-so-pretty sides of online poker being revealed, but in the long run, we WANT the non-poker public to understand our dilemmas … and, assuming we really are on the right side of the UIGEA, some might argue we need them to.

Even though the 60 Minutes preview starts with “this $18 billion industry is illegal in the US”, Steve Kroft and his gang did talk with the PPA on and off camera about it all … so they’ve definitely been exposed to the storyline that recent politics severely hampers the ability to prevent AP/UB cheating. I suspect the story will end with something like … “but there’s no guarantee that regulation would be able to prevent [insert bad stuff here], and supporters of the UIGEA say those abuses are exactly the reason this seemingly harmless game needs to be prohibited in America.”

Such a fair and balanced take would leave it open for people like us to scream in favor of one side while plenty of right-wing conservative types would still be able to say, “See, gambling is evil! So are computers!”

But what really matters is where those non-committed folks in the middle stand — the bulk of those 12+ million viewers who never had a reason to care one way or the other about poker. We’re talking about just a few percentage points worth of the populace (and what they represent politically) being swayed to believe either online poker players got a screw job, or that the poker industry is filled with Russ Hamiltons and therefore shouldn’t be legitimized. While there’s a risk that they could come down on the side of gambling=bad, it’s kinda a risk we have to take.


Because right now they’re simply non-committed folks in the middle — they have no opinion on the issue, which therefore casts no weight in congressional halls. We already know that poker’s current weight in Congress — while noticeable — simply isn’t enough to get the change we pokerers are looking for.

So no story, it all stays the same.

But with a story … we have a chance of “registering new voters” (I’m speaking metaphorically here) on the issue — of 60 Minutes making what matters so much to both us and Focus on The Family types actually matter to those in the middle who currently don’t care one way or the other.

Hopefully, 2 out of every 3 new people aware of the complex situation will see things close to our way. (Again, using rough, unofficial numbers.) If they do, we win! If they don’t, we lose … or stay exactly where we are right now — same thing.

(I suppose it could get worse if 3 out of 3 fall on the side of the Religious Right, but i just don’t see that happening in the current political climate of America.)

But the online-poker-regulation issue simply cannot get to where we want it without the support of non-poker players. And because the uber-pro-poker media such as CardPlayer, Bluff, and dare I say Pokerati can’t be expected to make the issue matter to these “swing voters” any more than Darus Suharto on Ellen would, we have to take the risk of putting it in the hands of 60 Minutes (or the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, et al.)

It’s the only hope.

Kevin here to interrupt this post to add some additional content, a brief interview with Steve Kroft about the 60 Minutes story:

Watch CBS Videos Online

6 Comments to “RE: 60 Minutes to Air AP/UB Story ”

  1. California Jen

    Dan, it’s a little stunning, but you and I agree on this one. I’m one of the few that believes this won’t be the anti-poker story that most people are predicting, and I don’t think the results will be particularly negative.

    The question here is: What’s the worst that can happen? And you hit the answer exactly: Everything stays the same. But the best that can happen is that people begin to look at online poker as a monstrous industry that could be regulated, taxed, and treated as a legitimate biz in this country.

    I guess we’ll see on Sunday… when we can record it, dissect it, analyze it, and compare notes.

  2. Harris

    I agree, even if the nightmare scenrio of the 3 out of 3 falling to the other side happens then at least it will raise the question with those who have never before thought about it. 60 minutes is great at bringing issues to the debate table and providing both sides of the story. Once that happens I think it’s up to the poker media and poker players everywhere to talk to those who become newly interested in the matter.

    In my opinion those who scam and cheat the online poker sites are no different than those who cheat and scam other things. If you outlaw online poker those people will find some other way to cheat and steal their way through life. We arn’t going to outlaw welfare or food stamps even though those systems are obviously abused, why should we outlaw poker because of a handfull of people cheating the system?

  3. DanM

    there’s just no way that will happen. the money situation alone — “please, tax us!”assures it. And in the preview video, you can tell Todd Witteles and NioNio (I think that’s who the other guy is) are being painted as the good guys.

  4. DanM

    Thanks for the interruption Kevin. The interview has me totally convinced it’s at least a mini-win for poker. Hopefully they’ll get a little bit into the UIGEA, banking, and Kentucky, too.

  5. Kevin Mathers

    The Australian guy at the end of the original video is Michael Josem, who helped with the statistical analysis.

  6. Poker Shrink

    Not surprisingly Dan, you and I disagree on yet another issue. In particular, the notion that Sixty Minutes gets it right most of the time. This is not a news show, it is entertainment. Agreeing with most of their positions and tsk-tsking along with them as they expose wrong after indignity after crime, does not mean that they don’t have a one-sided bully pulpit to put out their view on an issue. I only point to how ESPN has distorted the Scotty Nguyen, Phil Hellmuth and Tiffany Michelle stories this year to demonstrate the muck-slinging potential of the almighty editing floor.