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US legalization of online gambling may not be far off

Senior executives with US land gambling groups again emphasised this week that US-legalised internet gambling is the future for the casino industry. The executives were addressing a special session of the 15th East Coast Gaming Congress at the Atlantic City Convention Center, an event attended by some 600 land gaming operators, equipment manufacturers, regulators, attorneys, architects, analysts, public officials, investors and other gaming-related professionals.

One New Jersey lawmaker predicted there will be a ballot question next year asking his state's residents whether to amend the state Constitution to allow Internet gambling, which the full state legislature voted for, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed earlier this year.

Associated Press reports that executives from two online betting organisations and Caesars Entertainment said the Internet provides the gambling industry its best opportunity for growth.

"You're not going to stop the Internet," said Jan Jones, senior vice president of government relations for Caesars Entertainment. "You can regulate it, you can put in protections, but it's going to exist."

Melanie Brenner, president of the U.S. Online Gaming Association, said more than 10 million people currently play online poker.

"That's what they look forward to," she said. "This is the path to growth for the industry."

Panel members estimated the potential annual revenue from legalised Internet gambling in the U.S. at nearly $80 billion.

Richard Bronson, chairman of U.S. Digital Gaming, predicted that individual states will approve online gambling soon. He said the recent raids by federal prosecutors on online poker web sites makes it unlikely the federal government will approve Internet gambling, leaving states an opportunity to do it on a piecemeal basis.

"I believe strongly there will not be a national online gambling bill passed in the U.S.," he said. "I've yet to find one governor, one legislator, one lottery director that tells me otherwise. They want this to be a state issue."

New Jersey Assemblyman John Burzichelli, said the New Jersey state legislature plans to legalise.

"Next year there's probably going to be a question on the ballot to allow Internet gambling," he said. "Whether or not New Jersey voters amend the Constitution is up in the air. We came close, and we're going to do it again. We're going to take another run at it."

AP reports that the American Gaming Association called the recent prosecutions of individuals associated with three online gambling sites a "half measure" toward fixing the problem and called for federally sanctioned licensing and regulation of online poker.

The association's president, Frank Fahrenkopf, said millions of Americans bet billions of dollars a year at foreign websites, and will continue to do so as long as there are sites they can access.

"In fact, in the immediate aftermath of online poker's April 15 'Black Friday,' some of the 300 companies that continued to operate in the U.S., in spite of the law, saw a surge in new business," he said. "Today, there are more than 1,000 real-money websites operated by these offshore operators that still target the U.S. market."

Because of that prosecution, individual states will try to approve Internet gambling solely within their own borders, panel members agreed. But they would lose out on a lucrative worldwide market that unscrupulous illegal website operators will fill, they added.

"If we look at this as a state opportunity, we will have lost the single largest opportunity for this industry," said Jones, the Caesars executive. "If you don't have that international capability — Europe, Asia — you can't go in there because you can't go outside your own state. You lost the worldwide opportunity."

Source: InfoPowa News

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