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Experts say net bets down, but not (totally) out

Jan 14, 2003 6:41 AM

Nowhere to go but up. That’s the latest take on Internet gaming.

Visa and MasterCard have opted out of e-gaming accounts. And a prevailing sense of doom has sunk stock in Internet vendors such as CryptoLogic, whose net income tumbled from $4.4 million in the third quarter of 2001 to $1.3 million in the third quarter of 2002.

Even a recent Circuit Court decision that appeared to leave Net-based casino games unscathed was viewed as bad news.

"That will only increase the prospects for [legislative] prohibition of Internet wagering,’’ said Sebastian Sinclair of Christiansen Capital Advisors.

But panelists at the American Gaming Summit last week said it ain’t over till it’s over.

"It’s not a question of if or when we get Internet gaming, it’s a question of how,’’ said Tony Cabot, attorney with the Las Vegas law firm of Lionel Sawyer and Collins. "The industry is at low ebb. It will go up.’’

Cabot, a recognized leader in Internet law issues, believes that lawmakers could end up defining "gambling" in a way that ultimately opens the Net to legalized gaming.

"Under the Leach [prohibition] bill, you can make the case that video poker is legal [online],’’ Cabot said.

Cabot and other industry experts also see a convergence with skill-based games, bringing in such politically powerful players as Sony, Vivendi, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., and Microsoft. Lotteries, too, may provide another platform for Internet wagering.

Meantime, offshore operators ”” who cannot be prosecuted in the United States for taking stateside bets ”” continue to proliferate. Great Britain, based on the government’s Budd Report,

is moving toward becoming the global capital of Internet wagering, with no barriers to the U.S. market.

"Entrepreneurs always find a way to fill a void. There will be a ”˜Pay Pal’ for Internet gaming,’’ Cabot predicted.