AGA may be re-thinking its online gambling policy

Persistent reports on a variety of Internet gambling websites over the past 10 days suggest that the all-powerful trade association for the land gambling industry in the United States, the American Gaming Association, may be re-thinking its online gambling policy.

The AGA has traditionally been opposed to the pastime, although there have been signs of a mellowing in its approach in more recent times, and president Frank Fahrenkopf has indicated that there is support for a comprehensive independent study of the industry and its pros and cons such as that proposed by Nevada Representative Shelley Berkely. The AGA's board voted just last month to form a study group to review the matter.

The most recent reports indicate that the AGA policy will be reviewed this week at a top level meeting that will consider the implications of legalisation and the practical problems and impact of regulation.

Little detail has thus far emerged as to who will attend the meeting or what other items are on the agenda, but the legislative attempts by Congressional representatives such as Barney Frank, Robert Wexler, Shelley Berkely, Jim McDermott and others to improve the situation will be relevant, along with the critical and often contentious topic of whether individual states or the federal government should control a regulated industry.

"I think a majority would probably be supportive of some internet gambling architecture, whether or not they would support a federal solution,'' Fahrenkopf is reported to have said.

There are cogent practical reasons for many of those involved preferring a state rather than federal approach, mainly the hands-on experience available at state level vs. the prospect of federal bureaucrats in US departments like the Treasury holding sway.

It is known that some AGA members are keener than others to expand their businesses into the Internet milieu, and the current dire economic climate with declining land casino revenues may influence opinions, too.

Estimated tax revenue from a regulated Internet gambling industry in the USA ranges from $8.7 to $42.8 billion over the initial first ten years, which could encourage a new US administration to cooperate in moves to regulate rather than kill off a potential golden goose industry.

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