Online gambling kept 'front and centre' by New York Times

US newspaper says land casino attitudes may be softening

The New York Times kept the legalisation of online gambling front-and-centre over the weekend with a generally positive article on the current state of play in the United States.

Author Bradley Bower of Bloomberg News opined: “Many of the country’s largest casinos, long opposed to gambling games like poker on the Internet, are now having second thoughts” before going on to examine the latest developments, noting that internet gambling is enjoyed by millions of Americans.

He reports that the American Gaming Association has accepted that online gambling could be regulated, and that it is still working on “…a proposal that would ask Congress to legalise at least some form of online gambling.”

However, the support of individual members of the AGA remains mixed, ranging from strong support by Harrah’s to fears of increased competition by Wynn Resorts, and the organisation is currently maintaining a neutral position on the issue.

However, the Wynn position may be moderating suggests Bower, noting that most recently the company has said that it monitors any legislative activity, federal or state, that pertains to its industry. “We make judgments after such legislation is passed,” a statement asserted.

Gambling industry analyst, Sebastian Sinclair, told the author a change of heart among casino operators like Wynn Resorts should not be surprising, given the stakes involved.

“When any industry is confronted with something of this nature, a game changer that is a paradigm shift, the first reaction is to circle the wagons to protect your business,” Sinclair observed. “But then, that changes over time.”

The author of the article quotes AGA chief executive, Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., in an interview by phone, as saying that the association had not settled on the details of its proposed approach to legalisation, including how the proceeds from Internet gambling would be taxed. “We have been working on something,” he said, “and continue to work on it.”

Bower gives a summary of the current status of the Frank legalisation bill, which has passed committee but has not yet reached the House floor (see previous InfoPowa reports). He also takes a look at moves in California, New Jersey and Florida and quotes Mark Balestra of BolaVerde Consulting, who predicts that the flurry of activity will continue.

Powerful new lobbying forces have been unleashed by the US legalisation debate, among them groups that include lotteries, racetracks and Indian tribes, all with plans designed to secure a valuable slice of the monetary pie.

Surprisingly, Bower did not seem aware of the recent unequivocal statement from Senator Harry Reid’s office that the House Majority Leader does not support Frank’s legalisation proposal. Instead he refers to previous indications that the senator may be warming to the idea.

“A spokesman for Mr. Reid said he was still reviewing the Internet issue and had not decided,” the author claims, but he is not specific on when that statement was made and whether it superceded negative assertions earlier this month by Reid staffers.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/business/04gambling.html?_r=1&ref=business

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