Adelson eyes Internet

Mar 18, 2003 6:05 AM

Sheldon Adelson is going where others fear to tread. Betting on online wagering, the casino magnate obtained an interactive gaming license from the Alderney Gambling Control Commission this month.

"An Internet gaming license in Alderney provides Venetian Interactive with some of the highest regulatory standards and controls in the industry, which supports our goal of providing a user-friendly gaming and entertainment experience in a totally secure and trusted environment,’’ said Richard Depew, CEO of Adelson’s online venture.

Alderney, the third largest of the British Channel Islands, has gained worldwide recognition as a hotbed for Internet gaming.

Spokesmen for Las Vegas Sands, V.I.’s parent, said the company has not finalized plans for operations in Alderney. "But we hope to do so within the next several months,’’ said David Friedman, assistant to Adelson.

V.I. Ltd. will conduct its Internet gaming activities in affiliation with SSP Gaming LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Irvine, Calif.-based SSP Solutions, Inc. (Nasdaq: SSPX).

The move comes after Station Casinos and Sun Resorts pulled the plug on their joint online gaming venture at another British archipelago, the Isle of Man. The companies said regulatory concerns presented too many legal and logistical barriers to profitability.

At last report, MGM Mirage was proceeding with construction of its Isle of Man site.

Despite the potential pitfalls, there is continuing momentum to develop interactive gaming because the prospective profits are so large. Wagers placed at offshore gambling sites cost the U.S. economy an estimated $4 billion to $10 billion a year, experts say.

Meantime, a duel erupted last week in Congress with bills alternately attacking and supporting interactive casinos.

On Thursday, a House committee passed a bill to prohibit Internet gambling by outlawing payments via credit cards, wire transfers or any other bank instruments for online wagers.

Now House leaders must decide whether to schedule a vote on the measure by Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, or wait on an alternative offered Wednesday by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.

Conyers’ bill would establish a federal commission to study the feasibility of regulating Internet gambling. Conyers said Internet gaming is a reality and that regulation is a more effective tool than prohibition.

Pushing for an across-the-board ban, Leach responded that "gambling on the Internet is the ideal methodology for money laundering, for narco traffickers and for terrorists.’’

 "I believe you should have to leave your house to lose your house,’’ added Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., a supporter of Leach’s bill. "Even in Nevada, they don’t bring the roulette wheel to your home.’’

Other lawmakers, however, felt it was not the government’s role to monitor activities that are essentially personal.

Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., declared, "I don’t think it’s any of the government’s business when you leave your house; why you leave your house; what you do in your house or what you do when you go out of your house.’’

In the upper house, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., re-introduced a bill similar to Leach’s on Thursday. Kyl garnered a 90-10 vote on the same legislation in 1998 but the measure did not become law because the House did not vote on it.