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Internet gambling tapped as hot topic

Jan 6, 2009 5:09 PM
by GT Staff |

Internet gambling in the United States will be a hot federal issue for the new Obama Administration and the U.S. Congress, which could take steps to overturn current laws banning domestic online gaming in the months ahead.

Legalizing online gaming in the U.S. is just one of 21 trends for 2009 compiled by Spectrum Gaming Group in its annual list released last week.

Spectrum is an independent research and professional services firm based in Atlantic City.

Eight of the 21 trends concern the effect of the recession on the gaming industry.

Note that Spectrum isn’t predicting the U.S. will repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2009, but that the new administration in Washington will most likely consider arguments, and that gaming companies will continue lobbying efforts on the issue.

The notion that casino operators will actually pursue online gaming is a new one, driven by the need to shore up slumping casino revenues in their brick-and-mortar gambling halls.

With most online casinos and sports books already out of the U.S. market, it would appear the time would be right to explore legalizing and regulating the industry, with the door wide open for land-based casinos.

Here are the other 20 trends forecast by Spectrum for 2009:

• Advancements in technology that impact revenues and cut costs will continue to be attractive to operators, even in a recession.

• Continued conversion of racetracks to racinos, as well as non-gaming expansions to existing racinos.

• Continued elimination of casino jobs.

• Continued moratorium on development of high-priced casinos.

• Regional jurisdictions will continue to achieve better year-over-year results than destination-based casino centers.

• Corporate and property debt restructuring in the face of declining revenues.

• Eastern European countries will increase their efforts to meet EU regulations.

• Gaming operators will step up their efforts to export their brands globally.

• Gaming equipment manufacturers will continue to develop games that appeal to a younger demographic.

• Increased legislative acceptance of allowing the deduction of issued electronic promotional gaming credits from the gross revenue tax/fee calculation.

• Increased use of electronic games, including the emergence of scalable electronic table games in which players at different locations on the floor wager on a single outcome.

• Increasing alliance between commercial gaming operators and outside investors, as well as between commercial and tribal operators.

• Major gaming operators will de-leverage by selling off properties to emerging operators.

• A more pronounced shift in market share among suppliers as operators attempt to shift away from IGT participation games.

• Native American gaming revenues will remain on track to surpass commercial gaming totals.

• Prices for hotel rooms, shows and other amenities will return to lower levels at large gaming resorts as operators seek to fill their properties.

• Slow but steady advancement toward server-based gaming floors, as operators remain skeptical as to the potential financial returns on investment.

• States consider expanding or legalizing casino-style gaming to help satisfy state budget needs.

• Support from China to ease visa restrictions, increasing the flow of visitors to Macau.

• Uncertainty in various European countries concerning regulation, thus increasing cases being referred to the European Court of Justice.