Gambling Industry still split on legislation
By Paul
According to David Strow of the Las Vegas Sun, the debate on online gambling is still going strong in the traditional casino industry, as evidenced by comments at the American Gaming Summit this week.

As followers of online gambling will doubtless be aware, two bills aiming to ban Internet gambling in the US were introduced in Congress last year. Both bills aim to ban the use of credit cards, electronic fund transfers and checks at Internet casinos. The bills have been proposed by Republican congressmen. Bob Goodlatte and James Leach.

Most industry observers are dismissive of the chance of either bill passing this year, ‘though Prudential Securities noted in a Monday research note it is possible either Goodlatte or Leach could attach their bills to numerous anti-terrorism or anti-money laundering bills now pending before Congress.

The US casino industry has up until recently been solidly against internet gambling, but now there is a growing support for internet gambling, as shown by Republican congressman John Gibbons on Monday. To Gibbons, the problem isn’t online gambling per se, rather it is a lack of regulation: “When it’s regulated and controlled, it's a state's rights issue,' Gibbons said. 'Unregulated Internet gambling is the genesis for the legislation now being considered by Congress.'

Bobby Siller, member of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, is also supportive of regulated online gambling. Legality under federal law, technology, security and problem gambling are all issues that must be considered and resolved first: 'Internet gaming will be here... (and Nevada licensees) must have an opportunity to take advantage of this,' Siller said. 'We're in a new era. We have to have an environment that allows them to grow. If we don't, they'll be left out. We need to be flexible and creative.'

Sounding a note of caution, Nevada's most powerful Congressional delegate -- Senate Majority Whip Harry Reid - remains 'opposed in principle' to Internet gambling, according to James Ryan, Reid's legislative director.

In a Monday research note, Bear Stearns gaming analyst Marc Falcone said he believes the debate is a moot point, since the Goodlatte and Leach bills have little chance of passing. However, Falcone insists the more pressing issue is the credit industry’s attitude to online gambling: 'Some (online casino) operators have reported that business levels are down as much as 50 percent, due to the credit card issue,' Falcone wrote.

One thing is for certain: whether Goodlatte and Leach succeed with their proposals, the rift in the ranks of casino operators regarding online gambling looks set to widen.

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