Thursday May 28,2015 : U.S. ONLINE GAMBLING HAS GREAT POTENTIAL, SAY EXPERTS
Despite challenges, improvements are taking place conference delegates are told.
The East Coast Gaming Congress in Atlantic City opened this week with a panel discussion on internet gambling in which delegates were told great potential exists despite current challenges that include political uncertainty, difficulties with credit card companies and opposition from a reactionary land casino mogul with money to burn.
And improvements are gradually taking place as operators in the three states that have thus far legalised – Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware – address the negative issues that have been hampering the full development of the business, experts opined.
Delegates were told that the initial difficulties had resulted in returns below expectations thus far, with New Jersey generating $122 million from Internet gambling in 2014; Delaware nearly $2.1 million and Nevada (which has only legalised online poker) just $8.1 million from February to November, when it stopped reporting online revenue results.
Panelists examined the prospects for more states joining the legalization trend, with Pennsylvania at present the most likely to be next, but moves afoot in California and New York, and several other states mulling the possibilities.
Earlier this year the top analyst firm Morgan Stanley cut its estimate of the potential U.S. Internet annual gambling market by nearly half to $2.7 billion.
Cutting through public misinformation from some vested interests, several speakers emphasised that online gambling is definitely "regulatable" as evidenced by the success of licensing and strict regulatory regimes in the three US states that have thus far legalised the genre.
The dire negative predictions of underage, compulsive and organised crime-influenced gambling had simply not materialised due to strict regulatory oversight, professional operator practice and sophisticated technology deployed on internet gambling websites.
Initial problems caused by confused financial institutions declining online gambling transactions have been addressed with the recent introduction of new transaction codes adopted by Visa to narrowly identify Internet gambling transactions from properly licensed and regulated operators. This has Visa acceptance rates from an initial 18 to 22 percent to the current and improving 50 percent, delegates were told.
Land casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who remains implacably opposed to online gambling and has generously funded political, lobbying and PR campaigns against legalization, came in for criticism from the outspoken New Jersey Senator, Ray Lesniak, who commented:
"The biggest problem is Sheldon Adelson. When a billionaire says he'll spend whatever it costs to stop Internet gambling, that scares the bejeezus out of legislators," he said, referring to Adelson's past massive donations to Republican Party political campaigns.
David Rebuck, director of the New Jersey Division for Gaming Enforcement, provided the voice of practical experience, having overseen regulated online gambling in his state since 2013.
The director told delegates that all the major issues regarding consumer protection and the exclusion of criminal activity have been overcome, and that the positive experiences achieved in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey should reassure and encourage other US states to follow suit.
Rebuck also noted that if moves to more widely legalise sports betting came to fruition, the activity would most conveniently be generated by punters using the internet, and that another major trend toward internet wagering is the state lottery industry.