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Vicky Nolan

Q & A: Tony Impreveduto

26 June 2001

Before the conception of legislation to permit land-based casinos in Nevada to offer online versions of their games, New Jersey Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto paved the way for regulation in America by introducing a similar bill in his state.

Impreveduto's previous work regarding gambling involved player protection, so a bill enabling casinos to expand their services, at first, may seem like a departure for the part-time legislator, full-time political science teacher. Yet he maintains that allowing licensed land-based casinos to offer online gambling would be a huge step toward protecting residents of his state from unlicensed and unregulated operators.

The assemblyman recently sat on a panel with American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf and Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Brian Sandoval at the Global Interactive Gaming Summit & Expo in Toronto. The three engaged in a spirited exchange about Internet gambling in the United States--probably the week's most compelling session. Following the discussion, Impreveduto spoke with IGN to expound further on his views.

IGN: What's the status of the enabling bill you introduced in New Jersey?

Tony Impreveduto: Currently, the New Jersey bill, which would regulate Internet gaming through licensure, is at a standstill.

IGN: So, what do you do?

TI: It will be revived. This November there is an election in New Jersey for both houses of the legislature and the governor. The people that are stopping the legislation are Republicans in the majority. There is a very strong possibility that Democrats will control both houses and the governor's office in November. I suspect at that point in time our bill will be forwarded. There will be new leadership and our bill will go forward.

IGN: Will you be making any changes?

TI: I intend to make a change, a minor change. Currently the bill states that the only gambling that can take place is within the state of New Jersey. That is going to change and I'm going to open that up to the world.

IGN: Do you think that will be a problem?

TI: It's all in how it's perceived. It can be perceived as a problem now just in New Jersey being intrastate. I don't know how you stop it from being interstate--or inter-world, for that matter. The Internet doesn't stop at a state line, so I don't know how you stop that. Quite honestly, if it's a problem being interstate, it's a problem no matter what. So, let's take it head on and let's do the right thing.

But, we can avoid those states in our country that choose not to have it or ban it. We can say that no operator can sign up a person from one of those states, so we can protect those states and honor their prohibition on Internet gaming.

I think we have to remember and understand that Internet gaming is here and it's here to stay and that we need to protect those who choose to use it. I've said it before: Currently there are no rules; there are no regulations--pretty much it's do as you want when you want to do it. There are no guarantees that the 10s haven't been taken out of a blackjack deck or the dice haven't been fixed so that every seventh roll a seven comes up. We don't know any of that. We don't know if the person playing on the other side is a 15-year-old kid, or someone that's just lost his mortgage. Ninety-five percent of us can gamble and enjoy it, not gamble a lot, but there's that 5 percent that can't afford to play. So we need to be careful for those folks and be kept from underage kids. The only way that we can do that is by regulating it, by licensing it, and putting in those safeguards that are necessary to protect children and to protect those that can't protect themselves.

IGN: Why is it that the land-based casinos have, for the most part, thrown their support behind Nevada's enabling legislation yet shunned similar efforts in your state?

TI: That's a question that's bothered me. The day that I put this legislation in, the casino association came out and said this bill was dead and that they did not support it and will not support it. It was befuddling in the sense that the folks from Harrah's were saying this was a bad piece of legislation, but at the same time were already partnered with somebody developing a website and currently have a website, although it is play-for-fun in New Jersey and Nevada. But they are online and apparently have an extremely busy website.

I applaud Merle Berman on the great job she's done in getting that legislation through. But Nevada's always been first in that kind of stuff. Nevada was the first with gambling, and then we all began to realize that you could have gaming and you could do it safely. And we'll also be like that at some point with Internet gaming.

But when you have folks like Tom Gallagher, who is president/executive of Park Place, come out and say--when talking about the Nevada piece of legislation--that before we rush casinos into our homes [via the Internet] industry leaders and those who serve on regulatory bodies must ensure the access to Internet gaming can, in fact, be limited to those who are legally allowed to gamble.

IGN: What are some of the differences between your bill and the one passed in Nevada?

TI: Hers (Merle Berman's) is significantly different from mine in the sense that she's pretty much left the regulation up to the regulators (to the equivalent of New Jersey's casino control commission), where mine puts in safeguards already built into the legislation about underage gamblers and providing money for the 1-800 gamble hotlines and support groups, which hers did not do.

But we both exclude sports betting and we both exclude racing from Internet gaming. Her bill strictly limits to Nevada; my bill strictly limits it to New Jersey. So, they were the same in that sense--the major difference being she left regulations to the regulators and she was able to get the bill through and I wasn't.

Q & A: Tony Impreveduto is republished from
Vicky Nolan
Vicky Nolan