Dodging a Tsunami – for the moment



Senator Harry Reid has stirred up a great deal of controversy, most of it not on the floor of the Senate, rather in the media.  It seems that there is at least one story from every casino jurisdiction in the country, for the most part they focus on the potential impact of Senator Reid’s plan to legalize gambling online in the United States.  Besides the media coverage, there have been corresponding legislative initiatives in Washington, D. C., California and New Jersey, fueled at least in part by Reid and his plan.  Most of the stories, including ones from Reno and New Hampshire, focused on the potentially harmful impact of legalized Internet gaming.  The Reno Gazette-Journal reports northern Nevada operators are fearful.  The New Hampshire Union-Leader reported that the state lottery director says it would have a devastating impact on an important source of state revenues, the state’s lottery.

Harry justified his intiative, not by explaining how it would help Caesars Entertainment, nee Harrah’s, a major campaign supporter and strong advocate for online gambling.  Instead Reid tells us how it would everyone in the country.  It would be better that raising taxes, new protective tariff regulations or even minting more money and it would be painless.

Harry said:  “The online poker bill I am working on is good for the country and for Nevada. Under the status quo, Internet poker is played by millions of Americans every day in an essentially unregulated environment, meaning no protections for minors, no respect for State law, no assurance that games are fair and honest, and no one to turn to if you’re defrauded. Additionally, neither federal nor State governments collect a dime of revenue from this multibillion dollar Internet poker industry. “The legislation I am working on would get our collective heads out of the sand and create a strict regulatory environment to protect U.S. consumers, prevent underage gambling, and respect the decisions of States that don’t allow gambling. Experienced regulators already trusted by millions of Americans will maintain oversight and reputable operators with proven track records will provide a secure gaming environment for Americans. Finally, the revenue and jobs from this multibillion dollar industry will stay where it belongs – here in America.

At this point it does not appear that Reid’s bill will go any further – this year.  But we can be sure it will come back again and again.  Legalizing online gambling has been stalking Washington for at least five years, Senator Reid is only its latest and most visible champion.  Maybe next time the efforts will not be trying to come through the backdoor the way Reid tried to sneak this one as part of the tax legislation, however it comes, it will be back.  By then all of the discussion about the impact on local economies, employment and taxation will be forgotten, yesterday’s news.  One can only hope that Congress will take time to have a real debate and supported by real research; before reaching any conclusion, I hope the lawmakers are cautious and thoughtful in making a decision that will irreversibly impact the casino industry.  Legalizing Internet gambling will have an impact on the current gaming industry comparable to that of Japanese and German cars had on the American automobile industry, only it will make that look like just another big wave, compared to a tsunami that will sweep over beaches and high upon the land.



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December 2010
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