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Rocky Mountain state giving online gambling a look

The state of Colorado could be about to join the six other US states that have seriously considered the legalisation of online gambling in recent times. According reports in the Denver Post this weekend, Colorado land casinos commissioned a recently released study that found the state's brick-and-mortar operators could be at risk if they don't quickly embrace online gambling, in a competitive environment where Congress could ultimately regulate and tax the activity.

States that have recently examined legalisation initiatives include New Jersey, Hawaii, Florida, California, Nevada and Iowa. And the city-state of Washington DC's latest budget has de facto legalised online gambling within DC borders.

Local observers have noted that the federal crackdown on three online poker sites last week is unlikely to halt the persistent demand from US players for online gambling facilities, and will not permanently shut down Internet gambling in a country that accounts for nearly one-fifth of global website wagers.

The Denver Posts reports that other operators are already filling the vacuum left by the three sites affected by the federal enforcement action, despite growing difficulties with e-cash processors. The newspaper quotes noted gambling expert, Professor I. Nelson Rose, who said:

"Just like Prohibition, you can have pretty spectacular raids on breweries and speakeasies, and you don't stop people from drinking. This isn't going to stop people from playing poker on the Internet."

The Colorado study showed that Americans account for 17% of worldwide Internet bets. Total online gambling revenue generated from U.S. residents is estimated at nearly $6 billion annually, which includes wagers on other casino-style games and sports.

The Poker Players Alliance is active in the state, with 18,000 registered members.

Like other state enforcement agencies across the United States, the Colorado attorney general's office operates on its opinion that internet gambling is illegal in the state, although it acknowledges that it has yet to charge anyone for illegal internet gambling, and there is no specific statute that positions the pastime outside state law.

That does not deter the attorney general's office, which maintains it can prosecute online poker players under existing gambling and money-laundering statutes.

"It is within our power to prosecute these types of cases," Mike Saccone, a spokesman for the AG's office, told the newspaper.

Many of Colorado's land casinos operate poker rooms, but internet operations would be more profitable and practical, a local consultant told the Denver Post.

"(Poker) is not as lucrative for a casino because it takes a lot of room and labour, and it just doesn't generate a lot of revenue," said gambling industry consultant Bill Palermo, adding that operating online poker rooms is another story, with minimal startup and maintenance costs compared with a brick-and-mortar operation.

The January 2011 study commissioned by the Colorado Gaming Association found that "online gambling represents an opportunity for and a threat to commercial casinos in Colorado."

"If Colorado does not act on this emerging field in a timely manner, the existing commercial casino industry will be at risk," the study warns in publishing its results.

The casino association is not currently pursuing any online gambling legislation. But the group commissioned the study in anticipation of "Congress's eventual regulation and approval of online gaming, and assuming that the states would be given jurisdiction to regulate it," said executive director Lois Rice.

"The (New York US Attorney's) indictments reinforce proponents' arguments that the states should legalize intra-state poker," said gambling expert Rose, "so that the operators and their computers and payments processors will be physically here to be taxed and regulated."

Source: InfoPowa News

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