Wynn: Online poker situation cries for regulation

Apr 23, 2011 7:25 AM

Wynn Resorts Ltd. CEO Steve Wynn talked about online poker as his company reported first-quarter net income. Wynn’s Las Vegas company runs casinos there and in Macau in China but not online. When asked by an analyst about his plans for online poker, Wynn talked about his company’s views and a canceled deal with PokerStars, the world’s largest online poker site.

Federal prosecutors announced Friday that they had indicted PokerStars and two other online companies that have offered gambling on poker games to American customers since 2006. Gambling on poker online technically became illegal in the U.S. in October 2006 when Congress barred banks and others from processing related transactions.

The same day as the indictment, Wynn Resorts said, the company terminated its agreement with PokerStars.

QUESTION: Is there any interest at Wynn in moving toward Internet gambling?

STEVE WYNN: We’ve been approached over the past several years by most of the Internet players who wanted to combine with us and take advantage of our brand, and we finally became convinced, sort of hesitantly, about PokerStars, because there didn’t seem to be any interest in the government to enforce restrictions on the game of poker. ...

Based upon that, we made a very tentative, conditional deal that said if the United States government makes poker legal and provides that anybody who’s been dealing poker recently is acceptable -- and then if that legislation passes in Washington -- and then if you can get approved by Nevada or Jersey or whoever’s the licensing authority, then we’ll go into business and split it with you 50-50 and we’ll put our name on it. ...

This reminds me of the Volstead Act during prohibition. It said you can’t drink beer. Well, people drank beer anyway. And poker’s about as American as apple pie.... The situation cries for regulation so that states can get money at a time when they need money and the federal government can get some money at a time when it could use the money. It seems like an intelligent thing to sit down and regulate.