The long-running American television news program, CBS's "60 Minutes", ran a story on November 20th regarding the growth of the online gaming and poker industry. The advertisements and drop-ins that were done gave me great concern that they were going to rip the Internet poker rooms and casinos. After watching the segment, however, Internet gaming came off looking very good and perhaps gave many something to think about in the political mainstream and the legal realm as well.
The fifteen minute segment led off the broadcast and the story was done, very responsibly in my opinion, by veteran news journalist Lesley Stahl. Steve Lipscomb, the creator and owner of the World Poker Tour who has helped in the online poker boom, came on the program and was, in general, very responsible in his comments regarding the legislation and regulation of Internet gaming. The president of the MGM/Mirage also lent his belief that online gaming was something that should be regulated by the government and commented that, at one point, the casino ran an online site that was only playable by those outside of the United States. When the site failed to draw enough action, it was shut down. Even with this stated, you know that if the U. S. government ever opens up online gaming within the borders, every casino and cardroom from Atlantic City to Las Vegas to California will have their site up the next day, ready for action!
Where the real battle came down was between Republican Senator John Kyl and the Chief Executive Officer of Sportingbet PLC (which owns ParadisePoker.com, among other online gaming portals), Nigel Payne. Senator Kyl has long waged a battle against online gaming and was extremely close to making some impact earlier this year. It was interesting to listen to the two viewpoints and, in the end, Mr. Payne seemed to trump the Senator at many points.
Senator Kyl announced his drive against online poker and online gaming as a "social issue" and repeatedly voiced his concerns that the "young people" were falling into a potentially vicious and addicting course of life. What was even more interesting was when Stahl looked at his attempts to prevent credit card companies from accepting online wagers. She accurately pointed out that the major companies already voluntarily do this and such action was unnecessary! Through his part of the story, Senator Kyl seemed more worried about the morality of gambling rather than the location of it.
There couldn't have been a better spokesperson for the online gaming and poker industry than Sportingbet's Nigel Payne. He came across as a very straightforward businessman who agrees that the industry as a whole needs to be regulated and taxed. He accurately pointed out, "Gambling has existed since the dawn of time. America is one of the largest gambling markets in the world with developed gaming in lotteries, casinos, horse racing, dog racing and sports. Gambling exists in every country in the world. The right thing to do, the responsible thing to do, is to regulate it and embrace proper social parameters through regulatory control."
He was also quick to shoot down the underage gaming accusations. In an interesting segment, the sixteen year old son of one of the producers attempted to get on with his father's credit card. He tried several sites, including Sportingbet's Paradise Poker, and was rejected at all of them. Of course, he was able to find one site that he was able to get through and lose $100 on, so CBS did make sure to get that on the air!
Mr. Payne pointed out that there are several ways that online sites can determine if the user is of legal age. He said with a "99% certainty" that online gaming and poker rooms can do this and do actively attempt to prevent underage (below 18 or 21, it differs between sites) gambling. He also said that the industry actively attempts to prevent addictive gaming and will, when the site sees such possible activity, slow down the potential problem gambler.
All in all, the story was a very responsible one presented by CBS about the industry. It looked at the growth and future of the industry, a point brought up by Mr. Payne regarding how many online sites are trading on the London Stock Market and the potential for such an offering in America. With an estimated $10 billion in business for the year, he was quick to serve up that the additional taxation and revenue from the industry would be not only good for the government, but would also remove the stigma that some associate with online gaming and its current offshore associations. Perhaps we might see a change in the American government's views on online gaming, although, as even Mr. Payne (an Englishman) pointed out, it will probably take a change in administrations to do it!
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