Slots giant considers online move
By staff
The biggest supplier of slot machines has ruled out entering the online casino marketplace until the US legalizes Internet Gambling. Even before major casino companies announced plans to operate Internet gambling sites abroad, International Game Technology (IGT), had exited the business by pulling its investment in an Australian content provider to Web casinos.

IGT divested it’s shares in Access Systems shortly after concerns that a website run by an Access client was accepting bets from clients outside Australia. Nevada gaming regulators had voiced concerns about the investment –and with IGT’s business so tied to the US land-based gaming market, Nevada’s regulators’ words carry a lot of weight.

IGT would certainly be able to make a powerful online play: 'With their technology, their systems and their content, IGT could be a pretty powerful provider of online services' for Web casinos, said Marc Falcone, a gaming industry analyst with Deutsche Bank Securities.

IGT Chief Executive Tom Baker says the company is waiting for the right time and place to re-enter the online gaming market.

'We took a look at it then and thought it was a good idea,' Baker said in an interview published in In Business Las Vegas. 'We changed our mind because the regulatory environment in the U.S. is still uncertain and the politicians and regulators still have not come to a consensus and a clear set of rules for how things are going to work.'

Internet gambling must be legalized in this country before the industry can gain enough credibility to move forward, Baker said.

'I personally feel that although we've seen some success in some parts of the world, Internet gaming is not going to work well until the U.S. is part of the market,' he said. 'We'll continue to stay abreast of what's going on ... I think (legalization is) going to take a while. How long? I don't know, but a while.'

IGT would be more likely to offer content for online casinos rather than operate one, which could compete with the company's land-based casino customers, Vice President of Marketing Ed Rogich said.

The company has been approached by major gaming companies to provide content for websites that now operate in areas that have expressly legalized Internet gambling.

But IGT has avoided such deals because of the uncertain legal environment in the United States, Rogich said.

'When the light started shining more and more on Internet gambling, the one thing we saw that held true through it all was that the potential impact on our business wasn't worth the price of being involved with it at all,' Rogich said.

US regulators’ attitudes towards Internet gambling may change over time, Baker said.

'Some of these businesses that regulators don't like at all, as time goes on and as those businesses change and the people doing them change or the technology becomes more secure, the regulators become more comfortable with it.'

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