02/23/2012 :   MGM CHIEF BULLISH ON INTERNET POKER
 
US Congress might approve online gambling this year as part of other legalization.
 
MGM Resorts chief executive Jim Murren made the headlines Wednesday after giving his views on internet poker during his company's review of its fourth quarter results.
 
The Las Vegas land gambling giant posted a fourth-quarter loss of $113.7 million, slightly smaller than a year earlier, but Murren confidently opined that the group is positioned to offer legal Internet poker in the United States this year — and will benefit from legalization.
 
MGM and Boyd Gaming recently entered into a partnership with Bwin.party digital entertainment, a major European online gambling group.
 
There has been renewed positive interest in online gambling legalization since the US Justice Department admitted in December that federal law bars only sports betting online — not other types of Internet wagers.
 
Murren hinted that Congress might approve online gambling as part of other legalization, pointing out that there are several options in front of Congress in terms of getting Internet poker passed at the federal level in 2012.
 
"Several pieces of legalization need to be passed, and it could be associated with any one of those," Murren said. "I do believe it will be passed at the federal level and I do believe it will be passed this year, but that's my opinion…."
 
Murren noted that various states were working on intrastate legalization initiatives and will continue to do so unless the federal government seizes the initiative; he confirmed that MGM would "certainly be involved in that" and was prepared for all eventualities
 
"In fact, our arrangement with Bwin.party is designed to capitalize on Internet poker legalized in the U.S. We vastly prefer the federal option for any number of reasons: Uniformity of regulation, taxation, strengthening of crime prevention. But we can't speak for the federal government," he said.
 
The gambling chief later told the Reuters news agency that he was confident that online poker will finally be legalised on a federal or nationwide level this year, despite the challenges of passing politically sensitive legalization in an election year.
 
He stressed that many states were working on individual plans and could go it alone in the absence of a federal solution, but that if such a solution failed to emerge MGM was flexible and could still be an early adapter to a state-by-state approach.
 
"Regardless [of which regulatory system emerges], legal online poker will help encourage some of the estimated $3 billion-plus that now flows abroad to remain at home, and MGM Resorts hopes to get a solid share of that market," Murren said.