Last month I posted an article about what would really happen if online gaming was legalized in the US. I’ll spare you reading the entire boring post and just pluck out the most important part:
Any legalization of online gaming will come with a regulatory body who will determine who can and cannot offer gaming to US citizens. One of the big assumptions at the moment is that because PartyPoker paid a fine that they are clean. Actually, part of the settlement was an admission of guilt. That admission may come back to haunt them if companies like Harrah’s lobby for licensing requirements that state that any company allowed to offer gaming cannot have illegally offered gaming previously. It’s a perfectly logical requirement and one that many people would agree with so I don’t think it would be too difficult for a land based casino to attempt to get it inserted into any licensing requirements.
In reality, I would be very surprised if any of the current top online poker rooms ever get a license to operate in the US. If I was Mitch Garber running Harrah’s online division I would pump as much lobbying money as it took to make sure that the licensing requirements were sufficiently stringent that all existing online poker sites would be disqualified.
Well news is coming out of the Gaming Executive Summit in Madrid that I may be right on the mark about this. First, 888 CEO, Gigi Levy, was quoted as saying:
“The US will be protectionist even if it regulates, and its withdrawal from its GATS commitments means it doesn’t have to conform to any WTO regulation on internet gambling.
“There are five other states [with California] we know of that are considering regulating online poker, and we know the licences will go to US companies.”
Sitting on the same panel as Levy, Jim Ryan, CEO of Party Gaming, said:
“The [egaming] world is changing as regulation takes different shape in different markets. But upcoming regulation means new entrants and competition in the market, and I worry less about direct competitors such as those sitting on this panel than I do about government-licensed operators and major media firms targeting their power markets in the future.”
So it does sound like both 888 and Party Gaming are starting to worry that they may find the doors closed to them in the US if and when online gaming becomes legal.
I also think that Ryan is on the mark when he mentions major media firms. Although they’re not technically a media firm, but what if Google decided to get into the online poker business once it was legalized? How long would it take them to capture a major piece of the market and effectively shut out competitors? They would own the fish market and the sharks go where the fish are.
Photocred to emilywjones