Hopes for this being the year that federal legislation passes to license and regulate Internet poker received a boost last week when James Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, spoke confidently about the prospects on CNBC.
Asked about the Justice Department's recent conclusion that the Wire Act applies only to wire communications related to sports betting, Murren responded: "It means Internet gaming is going to pass here in 2012 in the United States."
Murren didn't preface his comment with "I think" or "hopefully." He just flat out stated that 2012 will be the year.
He did backtrack a bit by saying that he's not sure whether it will be done on the federal level or state by state. Nevada is expected to get its own intrastate poker network up and running later this year. If 2012 is only the start of online poker going state by state, it is still going to be a long process.
"It should be at the federal level, because that's where we can best regulate, prevent fraud, prevent underage gambling and get rid of the illegal gaming sites that still exist today with one uniform regulatory framework," Murren said. "If the federal government fails to act, state after state after state will approve Internet poker and it will proliferate on that basis."
Murren's thinking seems to back up the sentiment that the DOJ's new interpretation of the Wire Act will put pressure on Capitol Hill to get going on establishing an overall framework for Internet poker or watch the states do it. Because the Wire Act doesn't apply to online poker, states will be able to combine poker networks across state lines.
It's nice to get a major Las Vegas casino chairman talking positively about poker after Las Vegas Sands chairman Sheldon Adelson recently made vocal his opposition.
In October, MGM reached an agreement to join forces with Bwin.Party once Internet poker is officially legalized in the United States.
"It will be a multi-billion dollar business," Murren said. "It will be hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to us as a company, billions to the industry, and it will happen this year."
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