Wednesday, October 3, 2012 : ONLINE POKER LEGALISATION DRIVE IS RUNNING OUT OF TIME (Update)
"It's no longer a matter of if online gambling will be legalized in the U.S., but when, where and how," says AGA chief
Delivering his address to the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas Tuesday, top US gambling executive Frank Fahrenkopf Jnr held out little hope for federal legalization of USA online poker this year, noting that time was running out for current initiatives planned in Congress.
Fahrenkopf, as chief executive of the powerful US gambling trade body the American Gaming Association said that billions of dollars are at stake, characterising the online milieu as "the next frontier of our business" and identifying foreign online betting sites as potentially one of the biggest competitive threats to the US casino industry.
Assessing the chances of the Reid-Kyl bill, Fahrenkopf said that fast action would be needed if the authors wished to tackle the issue in the lame duck session of Congress following the November presidential elections.
"We will need plenty of hard work and a little gambler's luck to see a federal bill pass this year," Fahrenkopf said, adding that clearly nothing was going to happen before the election, and the lame duck session would be the last opportunity in the current Congressional session.
Around 85 nations around the world have legalised online gambling, Fahrenkopf observed, quoting estimates that up to $35 billion is being wagered online every year, much of it by US punters despite American legislative attempts to halt progress.
Fahrenkopf, a former Republican party national chairman, said about 85 countries have legalised online gambling, and some estimates say almost $35 billion is being bet worldwide online each year, including millions of dollars by people in the U.S.
"These are numbers generated with only minor participation by players in the U.S.," the AGA chief said, citing statistics from H2 Gaming Capital.
Fahrenkopf said this figure corresponds with gross commercial gambling revenues in the U.S. of some $35.6 billion for all of 2011, but excluding US tribal gambling, which the Senate Indian Affairs Committee reported topped $27 billion in 2011.
Imparting information on the US land gambling scene, Fahrenkopf revealed that according to data from state regulators casino revenues have increased so far this year in 17 of the 21 states that allow commercial gambling, and the numbers are up almost 6 percent overall.
Looking ahead, the AGA chief said that his association will continue to lobby Congress for legalised online poker in the US. Such a federal solution would be preferable to a state-by-state scenario where "a patchwork of rules and regulations will make oversight difficult and put customers at risk."
Fahrenkopf warned: "No matter what Congress does, based on the growth trends … and the actions of the various states, it's no longer a matter of if online gambling will be legalized in the U.S., but when, where and how."