Fears Prove Unfounded at Casino Affiliate Convention in Vegas

18 September 2006

"The biggest threat to this industry is not the United States government," said an obviously annoyed Marc Lesnick, organizer of the fourth annual Casino Affiliate Convention during the opening remarks of his program last week. "The biggest threat to this industry is the little boys who were afraid to come here today."

Lesnick was alluding to the fact that several affiliate programs had withdrawn as attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors over fears that U.S. law enforcement officials would raid the event, and his speech was marked by colorful phrasings, such as, "You're smoking crack if you think Stardust was going to let anything happen."

Fears of a massive government investigation into online gambling were sparked two weeks ago when Peter Dicks, a British non-executive chairman of juggernaut gambling company Sportingbet, was arrested upon arriving at the JFK airport in New York. Only a month earlier the CEO of a different online gambling company had been arrested at the airport in Dallas. Rumors abounded that a massive investigation into online gambling was underway in the U.S., and many conference-goers at the Stardust Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas feared that they too could be in its scope.

The nervous anticipation of the event was palpable beforehand. Rumors of a possible raid circulated Wednesday morning at the Gambling Portal Webmasters Association conference and at exhibition booth setup for the Casino Affiliate Conference Wednesday evening. One specific rumor that everyone seemed to be aware of was that the U.S. government had issued 400 indictments and planned to exercise some of them at the conference. There was of course no truth to the rumor.

Those who braved the conference were greeted Thursday morning with a sign at the registration desk that read "GUTS" in large bold letters. Lesnick elaborated on this theme in his opening address, telling attendees that they were pioneers who exemplified the resolve of the industry. On a large screen projector he displayed the famous photo of American soldiers planting their flag at Iwo Jima as he said, "That's you guys. That character, that spirit is you guys."

The conference logged about 500 attendees, but the figure is still noticeably below last year's peak of 700.

Nine of the event's 18 main sponsors withdrew from attending, and 21 of the registered 49 exhibitors declined to set up their booths. Representatives from two of these companies are known to have been in attendance, while representatives from a third had just finished setting up their booth when they received an order from higher management to strike it and leave the event.

Lesnick revealed that many individuals in the online gambling industry had been exerting pressure on him to cancel the conference. "The amount of pressure I received internally-- from within the industry-- was tremendous. There was no pressure externally," he said.

Still the show went on, and no raid ever came. In fact, Lesnick interrupted Thursday morning conference sessions to deliver the good news that Governor Pataki of New York had withdrawn a warrant approving Dicks' extradition to Louisiana.

General perceptions of the two-day conference and exhibition are that it was quieter than the previous year and that there was not much traffic or excitement in the expo hall. Yet it was still a success in many ways. A majority of the attendees present at the closing session-- a 90-minute panel in which casual open discussion was encouraged and mugs of beer were widely distributed-- raised their hands to agree that they believe the knowledge and connections they obtained at the conference would increase their revenue in the next few months.

All in all, the show ended on a cheery note. The release of Peter Dicks on Thursday seemed to ease some fears, and spirits seemed lifted even further at sponsored party events. Lesnick also had a surprise to unveil-- he awarded every brave soul in attendance a complimentary pass to his Casino Affiliate Convention in Amsterdam in May 2007.

The annual conference in Amsterdam is the largest online gambling affiliate conference in the world and was host to over 900 attendees in 2006.

Related Links
Casino Affiliate Convention (CAC) Las Vegas 2006
Gambling Portal Webmasters Association (GPWA) Conference 2006
Casino Affiliate Convention

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