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Hold the phone on interactive sports bets!

Sep 24, 2002 8:22 AM

   Interactive television is a fancy way of saying you can bet sports on-line through cable television. The problem is it's illegal.

   "The Wire Act passed in 1960 prohibits betting on the Internet, yet 60% of bettors play on-line," UNLV professor Pearl Brewer said during last week's Global Gaming Expo at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

   "People who gamble on line in this country are risking federal prosecution, but it's not stopping the activity," Brewer said.

   So, while Americans play a waiting game as to the legality of on-line betting, companies such as Orbis are becoming marketing players on the global circuit.

   "There are seven million digital subscribers in the UK (United Kingdom) and the majority are interactive," said Pauline Vahey, vice president of the North America division of Orbis.

   "With interactive TV people can bet soccer, for example, while the games are going on," Vahey said. "As deregulation comes in the industry, we can bring casino gaming into the picture. All this from the remote control in your home."

   Foreign gaming corporations such as SkyBet, Ladbrokes and Blue Square are working with Orbis on the Internet to provide betting sides all through Great Britain.

   "I would say that 11 of the 13 betting outlets on ITV (British TV network) use Orbis," Vahey said. "We are planning to put our virtual horse racing game on line at the end of the month. Also, NASCAR and motorsports is a definite possibility down the road."

   Mark Bradley, president of Players Network, used his television background to carve his niche into interactive television.

   "Players Network is involved in Canada and can be picked up on the Dish Network, which has eight million subscribers," Bradley said. "The living room has become the number one source of revenue. The opportunity is there now."

   Bradley feels that it's just a matter of time before casino betting on-line will be legal.

   "ITV is where MTV was in the 1980s," he said. "MTV pioneered the video music industry and this is the time to get involved in interactive gaming. No doubt this is a very costly industry, but that's the price you pay for being good."

   Brewer said she could see a time when wagers are being taken in Nevada hotels, but predicted that Internet gambling would be illegal in the U.S. for a long time.

   "I don't see anything changing from a federal standpoint," she said. "Nevada did pass a bill in June 2001 to regulate interactive gaming. Intrastate is the only path right now. I can see it happening in Vegas hotels, but just there."