Online Gambling Series: 2002
By Earl
by Earl Williams

* Prohibition raises the question -- After Australia, will the United States go the same way? It would probably be a matter for each individual state legislature.

* Australian media mogul Kerry Packer early in 2002 will launch Crown Online, a virtual casino. Is Packer another Rupert Murdock?

* The United Kingdom is at least partially in position to become the world's hub for online casino gambling. The British government and the industry seem to be interested in agreeing on the right regulations, but the biggest operators of the Internet Gambling Association need to convince the government to move more quickly. Will the policy makers be able to establish actual dominance before those in another region gain it?

* In 2001 a number of operators reported that 80% of their credit card transactions with players had been refused by credit card companies. Several online gambling services went out of business due to MasterCard and Visa taking measures, such as flagging and outrightly denying transactions, that prevented merchant banks from facilitating online gambling. Other online gambling services were hurt. How the crunch on credit will be overcome despite the attitude of the people behind the plastic is something the industry leaders feel will happen, but how, nobody can say just now.

* 2001 was the first year of no growth for Internet gambling. New people came into the business and several existing companies merged. But others sought profit in other areas of the gambling industry and some closed shop. Online gambling is still growing, but consolidation -- ownership in the hands of those who have done best with the business so far -- has arrived and will probably not be shaken out unless some new component for growth stirs up the market.

* California Dreaming: Interactive race wagering came into being with modest profit in 2001 in Pennsylvania, Oregon, Louisiana and Ohio. Observers predict the industry will explode when California enters the picture shortly, when account wagering becomes legal. As there is no system for interactive betting in place in the state, it is thought that competing operators, if they come to terms with one another, will set up such as system and it will be advantageous to the industry as a whole.

* Among other developments to watch for in 2002, according to Mark Balestra, Editor of Interactive Gaming News, are these:

-- Betting on sports and races, via interactive TV.

-- The legalization of online gambling in New Jersey if the State Assembly switches to a majority for the Democrats after the November election.

-- The movement to legalize online gambling in South Africa.

-- Another appeal for Jay Cohen.

-- 'The arrival of more big-name, big-money corporations.'

-- 'A push for Australia to loosen its stance on virtual casino gambling.'

-- 'The establishment of online gambling services in the U.S. Virgin Islands'

-- Passage of RICO, the Wire Act, and gambling debt enforcement in U.S. courts.

-- Online casinos opening in Holland.

-- Interactive betting in South America

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