Lanni calls for
online expansion

Feb 14, 2006 4:45 AM

At last week’s joint meeting of the Thoroughbred Racing Association and Harness Tracks of America, MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni told attendees that casinos and racetracks should work together to legalize more forms of Internet gaming.

"Online gaming is a multibillion dollar industry, and it’s ridiculous we can’t be part of that," Lanni said. "We should be able to utilize our brands — racetracks and casinos — to give people confidence to wager online."

Lanni delivered his remarks during the opening session of the joint annual meeting held at the Bellagio.

Lanni cited a poll that indicated more than 60 percent of people have at least some concern regarding whether they will receive payment from offshore wagering sites on winning wagers.

"That’s the best business to be in," Lanni said. "You have people willing to pay even though they think they have to win twice: once with the bet and once regarding concern if you’ll pay them."

Currently in the U.S., Nevada is the only state that allows betting on sports. And only recently, state regulators approved a measure that would allow Nevada casinos to accept pari-mutuel bets from outside the state.

Lanni offered statistics that show Americans wager a staggering amount of money on sports, and suggested casinos should be able to tap into that "gray area" market.

"Party Gaming admits that Americans wager on its site and that a significant portion of its revenue comes from those who shouldn’t be using the site," Lanni said. "You have people volunteering to pay a tax, and the government won’t go for it; it’s a farce."

Lanni said casinos could use the extra gaming revenue that online betting would provide, especially since in recent years gaming revenue has fallen behind non-gambling revenue (entertainment, dining, shopping, etc.).

In fact, Las Vegas casinos used to count on gaming to bring in up to 70 percent of its revenue. That figure today at the MGM Mirage properties is closer to 42 percent.

Lanni — a thoroughbred owner who is on the board of directors at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club — is a former director of Magna Entertainment Corp.

"I congratulate Magna on taking a chance doing the things they’re doing," Lanni said. "Maybe I’d do some things differently, but at least Magna understands the need to try things. There’s too much criticism in this game when people try to make changes. Maybe some things will work and others won’t. More can be done, but at least Magna’s doing something."

Lanni said that MGM Mirage remains "very interested" in the franchise to operate New York’s racetracks and that, as part of the company’s commitment to operate slot machines at Aqueduct and possibly Belmont Park, his goal would be to integrate more forms of entertainment with the racing product.