What Does the Future Hold For Online Gaming ?

At a special session of the 15th East Coast Gaming Congress at Atlantic City senior gambling executives emphasized that legal internet gambling is the future for the land based casino industry. The opinions expressed are not farfetched and have been tried before with great success. In the United Kingdom two major players in the land based bingo industry launched internet bingo sites to remain profitable after a national smoking ban devastated the industry in 2007. In just fifteen short years the internet bingo industry has grown and is now a $2 billion dollar a year business in the UK alone.

About 600 gaming operators, equipment manufacturers, architects, analysts, public officials, regulators, attorneys, investors and other gaming professionals attended the event.  One New Jersey legislator said that next year there will be a ballot question asking residents to amend the New Jersey constitution to allow legal internet gambling. Earlier in the year New Jersey governor Christie vetoed a bill that would have allowed online gambling for New Jersey residents. Currently the state’s constitution only allows gambling in Atlantic City. Casino interests have traditionally been opposed to online gambling in New Jersey and Nevada.

Executives from two online gambling companies and a Caesar’s Entertainment representative said that the internet will provide the gambling industry with the best prospects for future growth. Jan Jones, senior vice president of government relations for Caesars Entertainment stated “You’re not going to stop the Internet. You can regulate it, you can put in protections, but it’s going to exist.” Melanie Brenner, president of the USA Online Gaming Association, pointed out that currently about 10 million people play poker on the internet. Brenner stated “That’s what they look forward to. This is the path to growth for the industry.”

Members of the panel estimated that the potential revenue from legal online gaming would be about $80 billion dollars a year. Some participants predicted that individual states will legalize online gambling in the near future. Richard Bronson, chairman of USA Digital Gaming, said that the recent seizures of several poker sites makes it unlikely that the federal government will legalize online gambling anytime soon and that most likely individual states will legalize gambling one by one. Bronson stated “I believe strongly there will not be a national online gambling bill passed in the U.S. I’ve yet to find one governor, one legislator, one lottery director that tells me otherwise. They want this to be a state issue.”

The American Gaming Association has called for federal licensing and regulation of internet gaming and called the recent prosecutions “half measures.” The AGA’s president, Frank Fahrenkopf said that as long as players can access gaming sites they will continue to bet billions at offshore websites. While most gambling associations are focused on poker there are a sizable number of internet bingo players in the United States. Many are concerned that they will be shut out of their favorite websites. With so many conflicting news stories the future of online gambling in the US is difficult to predict.