US Online Casino Players hope for a fresh start for 2009

Posted on January 7th, 2009

Well, it´s 2009 and players in the US continue to hope that there will be changes in its government´s stance towards making bets online at casino, poker and bingo sites.

Unlike the UK government which has opted to control the online casino market through regulation and which boasts some big names in the industry (such as Ladbrokes and Betfair) within its shores, the US government has taken a heavy handed approach to the industry and has tried to ban it by making it illegal for companies to accept bets from US citizens. This has worked to a certain extent, but there still remains several companies that operate out of the Carribean and South America that continue to target the US.

Although a big name pulled out recently (Microgaming which include famous brands such as Riverbelle and Spin Palace) casinos such as Lucky 18, Rushmore and Golden casinos continue to take new US players online.

Rumours are flying that Utah State Representative Sheryl Allen is trying to introduce a Resolution that lays the decision as to whether or not to accept online gambling on to the individual states. The act that was rushed through by the Bush administration that caused all the headaches for US players online was the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). The new resolution would defer this to state and tribal laws in deciding what is legal. So there is a situation in which a US federal law, the UIGEA, says the state laws will govern it. Confusing at best, given all the ways that you could skin a cat on this one.

Meanwhile, the European Commission (EC) has recently responded to a complaint filed by the Remote Gambling Association (RGA). The RGA claims the United States is unfairly discriminating against foreign internet casino and poker firms. The US has already been fighting this one out with Antigua which plays host to a big online gambling industry. And on the other side of the bars, PartyPoker Co-Founder and major shareholder Anurag Dikshit, has admitted to breaking US law as defined by the Wire Act and has agreed to pay the U.S. Government a total of $300 million. He faces up to two years in prison.

On this, the RGA noted, “These events show that the outgoing U.S. administration and the Department of Justice have shown a total disregard for the legal rights of European online gaming companies and their stakeholders.”

So will the new Hawaiian broom in the shape of Obama bring in a new approach to this situation? No doubt he will, but the problem is that this issue has some heady priorities sitting above it- like the credit crunch, health, the car industry and an inflamed situation in the Middle East. So don´t expect a change in direction too soon. There´s no timeline on it right now, but many industry watchers expect the giants of the land based casino world in Las Vegas to wake up and smell the coffee when they are looking at the business potential online. Once they start lobbying, things may start moving quicker than you think.

Some of the big names on The Strip are already starting to see this as an opportunity. With years of customer recognition behind them and more contacts on Capitol Hill than you can shake a stick at, the big casinos, who once feared that online gambling would take away players, would be firmly in the driving seat. If the law changes in the USA, existing casinos would be first in the queue at the casino licence department before companies from overseas: the likes of MGM and Harrah’s could really clean up.

Legal online gaming would give a boost to the marketing of the Strip casinos. Watch this space, as they say Stateside.

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