"You know that phrase 'strike when the iron is hot?'" said Pappas, "Well, people who want to legalize online poker say the iron is definitely warming up. Whether it's next year or five years from now, I think it's going to happen very soon."
Pappas told the television station that lawmakers in Washington, D.C., as well as in the state of California, have introduced bills preparing the way for the regulation of online poker. He said that all the industry is asking for is regulation over a thriving business that already exists.
"Internet poker has been around for over 10 years, but it's primarily been operated by companies who are based offshore, outside the jurisdiction of the United States," Pappas said.
Answering critics who fear the underaged could access poker websites, Pappas said he believes poker sites would do a far better job at keeping kids off the sites than the porn industry has done.
"There is no benefit for some child to steal their parent's credit card, gamble, lose money, and then that site has to give all that money back," he said, adding that software already exists that can ensure someone under the age of 18 can't access other pay sites, and that this could be used for online poker.
Another concern people have is giving problem gamblers a new place to feed their addiction. But American Gaming Association communications director Holly Thomsen told the station there are ways to deal with that, too.
"If you have a computer that's set to say 'I don't want to bet any more than $100 in this session,' when you hit that mark, you're not allowed to gamble on that site anymore," she told KSL-TV.
However, Thomsen says her trade association is stopping short of endorsing legislation seeking to regulate online gambling. She commented that the AGA remained neutral on all Internet gambling bills, except for supporting a study on the implications of introducing regulation and taxation. She added, however that the association is currently debating a change of position on the issue and expects to make an announcement early in the new year.
Thomsen revealed that there are some members of the organisation who want legislation on a federal level, while others want states to regulate it, and others don't support Internet gambling at all.
"We're trying to reconcile those viewpoints, if possible," Thomsen said.
She concluded that regulators don't think current laws against online gambling really do much to stop people from going to an offshore gambling Web site.
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