Saturday October 8, 2011 : But the AGA wants its own online poker bill
The chief exec of the influential American Gaming Association, Frank Fahrenkopf Jnr, delivered his customary address at G2E in Las Vegas Tuesday, reiterating corporate gambling operators' support for properly regulated and legalised poker in the USA, but rejecting legalization already proposed to Congress by Texas Representative Joe Barton and Massachusetts veteran politician Barney Frank.
Instead, the AGA hopes to see new legalization passed in which it has had a hand…and which would let individual states decide whether to allow online poker.
It appears from Associated Press reports on his address that the AGA remains implacably opposed to anything beyond legalised online poker at present.
Fahrenkopf said that he was optimistic a new bill will be introduced this year.
"We're perhaps closer to federal legalization than we've ever been," Fahrenkopf told reporters. "There's a buzz in Washington about the need for action."
The AGA chief said that recent enforcement actions against major online poker sites has focused attention on the issue and the benefits of properly legislated and regulated online poker in terms of consumer safety, commercial profitability and the generation of tax revenues.
"The fact is that, despite the (indictments), millions of Americans are still betting billions of dollars a year on foreign poker websites, sites outside the reach of US law enforcement, leaving US players vulnerable," he said, adding that he and his staff have been working to meet with more than 100 newly elected lawmakers, most of whom haven't addressed online or offline gambling before.
Proposals already introduced in Congress for regulating online poker, including separate measures introduced by Representatives Barney Frank and Joe Barton, are objectionable to the industry because they go beyond the state framework in place today, or lack elements the industry is seeking, Fahrenkopf said.
Fahrenkopf noted that Barton's proposal is closer to what he wants, but said the bill is losing steam among some lawmakers who supported it initially.
The Association has been circulating a short video comparing the overall online gambling market — which it estimates generates $30 billion a year worldwide — to the Wild West.
The AGA wants a six-point code of conduct to be included in any legalization, including regular audits of poker software, tight technological controls to prevent underaged or problem gambling and procedures to prevent money laundering.
Elsewhere at the G2E conference, spokesmen for traditionally land-focused gambling suppliers like Bally Technologies spoke out, saying that fears that legalised online gambling would cannibalise the land industry were overblown.
Tom Doyle, a vice president at the company, which recently launched an Interactive division, said that if and when legalised online gambling becomes a reality, American land casinos and their suppliers will be prepared with the appropriate products.
He opined that internet gambling would become "part of the overall experience" and that the current trend toward supplying "free-to-play" internet games had the potential to enhance land operations and build brands.
Doyle also reminded delegates that "on-premises" remote gambling was now a practical reality, allowing gamblers to wager in hotel rooms and at other locations within the boundaries of land casino resorts, using mobile devices.
Another industry executive, Vahe Baloulian of the Californian firm eGaming Partners expressed similar sentiments, saying that internet gambling was a powerful way in which to attract punters to land gambling casinos and retain them if properly deployed. He said that offering free internet gambling educated players and gave them a taste of the real thing, and enabled operators to increase their knowledge of the client.
Rumours circulating at the expo and conference Tuesday included speculation on the possible launch this week of a new "free-to-play" website powered by ZEN Entertainment and owned by Michael Gaughan's South Point Casino.
The fully legal site will offer nationwide access to Americans, enabling them to enter tournaments to win a seat in the World Series of Poker main event next year. News of Gaughan's support for the idea and his future intentions surfaced earlier this year, and the initiative looks likely to become reality sometime this week.
The speculation is that the new site will be a precursor to Gaughan's application for an interactive gambling licence when these finally become available in Nevada, which has passed legalization laws conditional on federal approval for the pastime.
Both Shufflemaster and Bally Technolgies have launched interactive divisions clearly aimed at preparing for legalization in the United States, whilst Paddy Power has indicated its intention to apply for Nevada licensing, and other European companies like Party Poker, Betfair, William Hill and 888.com are all making moves on the US market