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Arnold M. Knightly

Gaming officials: Ready to bet on the Web

15 November 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Gaming companies are well-positioned for the eventual spread of legalized Internet gambling to the United States, top executives of the world's two largest casino operators said Wednesday during a panel discussion at the Global Gaming Expo.

Terry Lanni, MGM Mirage's chairman and chief executive officer, said the company's first venture into Internet gaming may have been unsuccessful financially, but it laid the groundwork for the company to return when the time is right.

"We closed the operation down with the thought that we know what we're doing, and we're prepared to do it if and when it becomes legal here," Lanni said.

The company set up an Internet gaming site in 2001 in the Isle of Man but quickly folded the operation. The site lost money because the company elected to undergo a more stringent registration process than its competitors.

However, the endeavor helped the company work out problems that will be useful when relaunching, such as how to determine a bettor's age and location and how to protect problem gamblers.

Lanni and Gary Loveman, Harrah's Entertainment's chairman and CEO, agreed that Internet poker will be legalized ahead of other casino games, partially because of its popularity. Loveman predicted online poker would be legalized in the United States in the next 18 months to two years. Lanni predicted 12 months to 18 months.

Harrah's, which owns the World Series of Poker brand, is already looking at the possibility of establishing branded online sites in jurisdictions that clearly allow online gaming, which includes many Caribbean countries and many members of the European Union.

However, the two executives greatly differed in their opinions about the possibility of legalizing other online casino games.

Loveman, noting that there is little support for online casino games beyond poker, thinks online casinos are eight to 10 years away.

Lanni believes it will happen sooner than that, although he did not give a time.

Lanni also said casino companies will be able to make up for time lost to the many of foreign online sites now in operation because they will be able to bring sense of comfort to users familiar with their brick-and-mortar properties.

"The issue is people want some form of comfort (on the Web)," he said. "If you know it's a Harrah's or a major brand, they can feel more comfortable."

The U.S. Justice Department under the Clinton and Bush administrations has enforced Internet gaming laws under the 1961 Wire Act, which prohibits the use of phones for sports wagering, horse wagering and the transmission of betting odds.

Gaming officials: Ready to bet on the Web is republished from