Thanks to a WCP reader for this link. Apparently WPT CEO Steve Lipscomb has a blog on TVWeek.com, because it wouldn’t make any sense to have one on the WPT site. Whatever. Anyway, in his latest blog entry, Lipscomb talks about his recent trip to China, and specifically about lessons in capitalism we all could learn from this utopian communist nation.
"If you want to foster healthy markets, a level playing field is critical. And that requires enforcement. If the bandits are not stopped, and in fact thrive, legitimate markets die…Ironically, China represents one of the few places in the world that protects legitimate businesses from being preyed upon by online businesses that will not play by the rules."
Nevermind that Lipscomb is making these points about an oppressive communist regime less than 20 years removed from Tiananmen Square. Or that Steven Spielberg just made a power play over his (lack of) involvement at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing if the Chinese government didn’t change their stance on Darfur. Or that just five years ago the Chinese government wouldn’t let their biggest athletic star, Yao Ming, play professional basketball in the states until Houston won the draft lottery. Or that the same government is trying to force Yi Jianlian out of Milwaukee.
Or that the Chinese government actually outlaws forms of gambling like poker.
Yet the World Poker Tour is, as it stands now, the only organization allowed to "promote" poker within the communist nation. Wow, that sounds really fair.
If Lipscomb was in fourth grade, he’d probably start a report on fair business practices with the line, "Webster Dictionary defines ‘fair’ as when I have the total and complete upper hand. It defines ‘unfair’ as when I don’t."
Let’s look at Lipscomb’s line: "Ironically, China represents one of the few places in the world that protects legitimate businesses from being preyed upon by online businesses that will not play by the rules."
We obviously can’t get into Lipscomb’s mind, but this sure sounds like a direct shot at FTP, Bodog, and all of the other sites that were operating their poker rooms in the U.S. while the WPT (Lipscomb) bitched and complained about how unfair it was. Even though we did love their response to the equally hypocritical and
Also remember, when the WPT responded to said ridiculous lawsuit, their public statement included this bit:
"[H]aving used the World Poker Tour as a springboard to become wealthy and famous enough to own or otherwise affiliate themselves with various business ventures, including online gaming ventures such as Full Tilt Poker that also now offer televised poker tournaments in competition with WPTE, Plaintiffs have turned around and sued WPTE to damage WPTE’s goodwill and reputation to the benefit of Full Tilt Poker and the other websites and companies in which Plaintiffs have ownership or other interests."
"For example, Full Tilt Poker, a website started by Plaintiffs Chris Ferguson and Howard Lederer and with which at least two other Plaintiffs are affiliated, already competes unfairly against WPTE by using the tremendous revenues it obtains from promoting online gambling in the United States and accepting online bets from persons located in the United States – activities declared by the US Department of Justice as illegal under existing law - to subsidize the poker programming it offers television networks."
So let’s make a very logical jump that at least part of the WPT’s motivation towards getting into China was to open the door for its online gaming site to be allowed in China, because seriously, there’s no way this conversation hasn’t come up at least once…right?…then how is this any different or a less fair business practice?
Further, while China may have these utopian practices for businesses that operate within their borders, they don’t exactly offer the same free-trade policies to the U.S. entertainment industry. Read about those practices here and here.
And let’s also take a look at the Great Firewall of China for a list of websites that are blocked in the country:
Wicked Chops Poker – Blocked
Tao of Poker – Blocked
Full Tilt Poker – Blocked
Bodog – Blocked
World Poker Tour – Blocked…but let’s check that again in a couple of months and see where the above sites stand as well
Clearly, under Lipscomb’s logic, one of the guiding pillars of capitalism is censorship.
The most depressing point in all of this is how awful the self-serving nature of both the WPT and the WSOP is going to ruin poker in the long-run. The pissing contest between Harrah’s/WSOP/BLUFF and WPT/Card Player makes for fun coverage, but for terrible long-term prospects for poker.
If poker stands a chance to keep growing, thriving, and becoming a respectable form of competition that would attract major corporate sponsors, these organizations should all be figuring out ways to work together, not apart.
Look at the PGA or (to a lesser degree) the WTP. They work because there is a defined tour with defined majors and ranking systems that ultimately work to promoting the overall health of the game and individuals who compete in them. While it’s (really, really) easy to not like Card Player or the WPT and their exclusive agreement with each other, its not like the WSOP and BLUFF aren’t doing the same thing to Card Player. What good does this do?
Simply, poker needs to be consolidating, not splintering.
But as the streams in this pissing contest get longer, the likelihood of a tour consolidation between the WSOP and WPT with defined majors, rankings, and schedules, which ultimately most agree would be best for the game, looks bleaker and bleaker.
Maybe we’re wrong. Maybe not. But since China apparently is a bastion of free enterprise and smart capitalistic practices, we’ve decided to book flights for ourselves to this great nation and see what self-serving lessons we can learn from them, just like Steve Lipscomb did.*
* Not going to China.