Internet gambling experts "neutral" on UIGEA

A pessimistic view from insiders polled by the AGA

Casting the shadow of pessimism over the prospect of US legalisation as the week ended was an article in the Las Vegas Sun, which reported on a survey of 17 Internet gambling experts carried out by the American Gaming Association, which itself is maintaining a neutral stance on the issue.

The consensus appears to have been that the chances for both Barney Frank's and Robert Menendez's online gaming bills passing are slim.

"Most think Congress has too much on its plate with health care reform, budget deficits and the brewing climate change mitigation fight to consider any gambling measures next year," the newspaper reports. "In addition, some suggest lawmakers won’t want to choose sides on gambling issues in an election year."

Of those polled, only one considered passage in the next year of Barney Frank's bill “somewhat likely,” with most considering it “somewhat unlikely” or “very unlikely.”

Senator Robert Menendez's less ambitious proposal to legalise, regulate and tax games of skill such as poker fared a little better, with five of the experts opining that it would be “somewhat likely” to pass in the next 12 months, but most say it’s unlikely.

Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government relations at Harrah’s Entertainment, was definitely pessimistic, telling the Las Vegas Sun that Frank’s bill has no chance of passage next year or maybe ever, despite the formation of an interactive division by her company. She too felt that the Menendez’s bill has a better chance, something that would benefit Harrah’s, which owns the World Series of Poker.

The newspaper reports that Americans are estimated to have wagered $5.9 billion online in 2008 despite the UIGEA, and most of the AGA experts think the market will grow to between $8 billion and $20 billion within five years.

"Many are skeptical that the United States would lure companies operating offshore because of lower tax rates and operating costs elsewhere," the article notes.

On a more optimistic note, Michael Waxman, a spokesman for the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative, told the newspaper that the level of online play has been underestimated and that lawmakers will soon realise how tax revenue generated by online gaming can help fill numerous budget holes.

Waxman added that Frank’s legislation has support from 63 co-sponsors so he’s not counting out the possibility that the issue would be aired next year.

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