|VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Feb. 28, 2005 -- The Interactive Gaming Council strongly supports a bill passed by the North Dakota House of Representatives that would legalize online poker and establish a structure to regulate and tax this form of entertainment. The bill passed the House on Feb. 16 and will be the subject of a hearing in the state Senate on March 8.|
'This is a bold, far-sighted move by Rep. Jim Kasper, the primary sponsor of the bill, and his supporters in the North Dakota legislature,” said Rick Smith, executive director of the IGC. “Thousands of people in the U.S. and worldwide are playing online poker daily, and North Dakota has the chance to lead U.S. jurisdictions in legally recognizing this reality. Its regulations would help protect players, while generating tax revenue for the state and nurturing a new local industry.”
Online poker has taken the interactive gaming industry by storm in recent years. The largest poker site, Party Poker, claims to have as many as 65,000 players competing at peak times. Its owner, PartyGaming, is considering a public stock offering in the UK. A British newspaper, The Guardian, said analysts project that the stock market would value PartyGaming at £3 billion, more than the value of traditional companies such as British Airways.
“Poker is a very popular game,” said Keith Furlong, deputy director of the IGC. “It’s as American as jazz, baseball and apple pie. Yet because of the hostility of the federal government towards any form of online gaming, no poker sites have yet been based on American soil. The economic activity and the revenue associated with online poker remain offshore, where they provide no tax benefits to the U.S.
“Traditionally, gambling regulation has been left to the states. Here’s a state that wants to take online gaming in a new direction. We hope it’s successful, and trust that the federal government will leave North Dakota alone if it chooses to go forward with this initiative.”
The IGC realizes that establishing regulated online poker in North Dakota will not happen overnight, and encourages state officials to take the time to get it right. Published reports say that the governor supports the bill. Even if the bill is passed by the state Senate and signed by the governor, however, a constitutional amendment may have to be approved by the state’s voters.
Rep. Kasper has asked people involved in the online poker industry to attend the March 8 hearing in Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota. The IGC calls on operators of poker sites, software developers and other suppliers, and even players to help Rep. Kasper by showing up in Bismarck to make the case for licensed, regulated online poker to legislators, the media and the general public.
“While other countries, including Britain, move ahead with regulated Internet gaming, the U.S. government continues to fight this form of gaming at every opportunity,” Furlong said. “At the same time, the U.S. is home to more players at online gaming sites than any other country, and state officials are beginning to realize that the Internet is just another means of delivering the gaming product, which is already legal in many other forms in most states of the U.S. They understand that it can be regulated online just as it is in the real world.
“State legislators in Illinois and Georgia recently introduced bills to permit the online sale of lottery tickets. At the local level, many government officials can see that attempts to thwart the rapidly growing Internet gaming industry are not doing anyone any good. Consumers are not receiving the regulatory protection they need, state and local governments are losing a source of tax revenue, and American companies are being deprived of opportunities in a global market, whose revenue for 2004 was estimated by Christiansen Capital Advisors at $7.5 billion.”
In January, Frank Catania testified before a meeting of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. Catania, the former director of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, observed that 82 jurisdictions worldwide provide some form of regulation for various types of Internet gaming. He said, “The ability to do real time auditing makes regulation easier and more efficient than the systems currently used by the terrestrial casino regulators. State-of-the-art technology, combined with proper operating procedures, has proven effective in preventing minors from gambling online and in combating money laundering. . . .
“This form of gambling cannot be stopped, but it can be effectively regulated and taxed.”
The IGC believes the logic of governmental licensing, rigorous regulation and appropriate taxation should apply to all areas of online gaming.
About the IGC
Formed in 1996, the IGC is the leading trade association for the international interactive gambling industry with its membership operating or supplying services to most of the reputable interactive sites on the World Wide Web. Based in Vancouver, Canada, the IGC champion’s fair and honest interactive gambling environments. To help parents protect their children, IGC members are encouraged to participate in the self-labeling system of the Internet Content Rating Association. The IGC has developed a Code of Conduct for members, and a program called Helping Hand to assist problem gamblers.