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Gaming Guru

Richard N. Velotta

Experts: Gaming Growth Good Bet

16 September 2005

LAS VEGAS -- New gaming jurisdictions are emerging around the world, from Florida's racinos to the United Kingdom's cyberspace domain.

But what seems to be the universal characteristic of all of the new players is that it takes longer to bring them on line than most people anticipate because of legislative, judicial and regulatory issues that spring up while the details are worked out.

A panel on the concluding day of the Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Thursday noted that gaming will be a part of the landscape or expand substantially across Florida, in various locations in Great Britain, in Costa Rica, Chile, Panama, Mexico, Cambodia and Vietnam.

One panelist even predicted that online gaming -- banned in the United States -- would spread across Europe until it becomes inevitable that American lawmakers have to approve it to keep up competitively.

Panelist David Schollenberger, head of the gaming team at the Manches LLP law firm in London, said he doesn't expect online casino operations to try to stop American customers from gambling on British casino web sites.

The United Kingdom approved online gaming as part of its Gaming Act of 2005 approved earlier this year.

The new British law was a disappointment to many industry watchers because it only allowed the addition of eight small casinos and one regional property to some 200 already in operation.

The new law continued to ban casino advertising, drinking and live entertainment in casinos and has no provision to enforce gambling debts. Scholenberger said it's likely to be 2006 before any new casinos are on line as a result of the modification.

The slow-down in Florida, said panelist Alan Koslow, an attorney for Becker & Poliakoff, Fort Lauderdale, is a result of the Florida Legislature failing to pass enabling legislation after the state's voters allowed casino gambling at horse tracks in Dade and Broward counties and Broward County voters, in March, voted to implement casinos.

Koslow called Florida "a legal 'Twilight Zone,' " after Florida's Senate and House approved two different versions of enabling legislation and couldn't resolve differences before adjournment.

The two versions of the bill had differing tax rates and didn't resolve whether the racinos could have Class II or Class III slot machines.

The state's courts have threatened to implement their own rules to enforce the will of the people -- a move that Koslow said could lead to more legal fights.

He predicted that it would take a year to 18 months to resolve, and in the meantime, other Florida counties could become interested in starting their own gaming properties.

Koslow suggested that a compromise on the differences in Class II and Class III machines could be resolved by allowing Class II devices, eventually allowing a transition to Class III, which are what is traditionally used in Las Vegas casinos. But he added that if such a compromise is allowed, Florida's tribal casinos could seek the same transition.

Operators have been authorized to install 3,000 slot machines per track at Florida racinos.

Panelist Jack Mitchell, president of Thunderbird Resorts, Poway, Calif., said as the gaming industry grows in Macau, Korea, and the Philippines, and comes on line in Singapore, it would only be a matter of time before casinos emerge in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Mitchell recommended that casino operators make contact with the leading families in those countries to develop international partnerships to get into those markets early.

Experts: Gaming Growth Good Bet is republished from