Mirage, Harrahs Putting Pressure on Congress to Legalize Online Gambling - Friday 26th of May 2006

WASHINGTON D.C As reported by Bloomberg – "Mirage, Harrah's Entertainment Inc. and other U.S. casino operators are increasing pressure on Congress to consider legalizing online gambling at the same time lawmakers are seeking to tighten criminal penalties for it.

"…The casinos say the best way to control the $12 billion Internet betting business which is based overseas while drawing more than half its revenue from the U.S is to legalize, regulate and tax it.

"'The argument the industry is making is, if it is being done offshore, why not bring it in to the U.S. so it can be regulated?' says Senator John Ensign, a Nevada Republican who has discussed the issue with representatives of Las Vegas-based Harrah's, the world's largest casino owner.

"…Lawmakers have become wary of gambling issues since a federal investigation of Abramoff uncovered a web of connections between some of them and casinos. Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to fraud and conspiring to corrupt public officials on behalf of clients, including Indian-tribe casino operators and eLottery Inc., a Stamford, Connecticut-based online broker of state lottery tickets.

"…Following Abramoff's guilty plea, two Virginia representatives, Republican Bob Goodlatte and Democrat Rick Boucher, introduced legislation to force U.S. financial institutions to cooperate with federal law-enforcement authorities in shutting down the flow of cash to illegal gambling sites based outside the U.S.

"…The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the measure, which has the backing of the Bush administration, on May 24, and Majority Leader John Boehner says he intends to bring it to a floor vote later this year.

"…The gaming association projects that the online betting business will double to about $24 billion a year in global revenue by 2010. The association says a study it conducted showed that as many as 15 million American players logged on to more than 2,600 Web sites last year.

"…The U.K. legalized online gaming a year ago. Since then, two companies based in the British territory of Gibraltar PartyGaming PLC and 888 Holdings PLC have sold shares to the public.

"…John Shepherd, a spokesman for PartyGaming in London, says the company 'advocates regulation' of online gambling and backs the proposed U.S. study. U.K. law recognizes 'that the only difference between gambling in a casino and gambling online is the word Internet,' he says. 'The British model is going to be a model for the whole globe.'

"…In addition to making campaign contributions, the U.S. casino operators have retained some of Washington's top lobbying firms.

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