A leading off-shore bookmaker vowed to fight for an industry "under siege," while acknowledging that "there’s a possibility we might not be here next year."
Those ambivalent sentiments summed up David Carruthers’ keynote message delivered at last weekend’s Casino Affiliate Convention in Las Vegas.
The convention brought together about 100 online casino and sportsbook operators, marketing firms, affiliate managers and website experts, who attended panels and heard presentations geared to Internet marketing for the online gaming industry.
Carruthers, the CEO and managing director of BetOnSports.com, said much of the criticism of online gaming is "wrong," and that media outlets such as the New York Times and USA Today have had "an open season" on offshore sports books and casinos.
"We need to challenge the dogmatic views that the media puts forth," Carruthers said. "We need to have a voice, and to work toward achieving an environment where our industry is legitimized and regulated."
Part of the problem with Internet gaming is the lack of unified regulation. Online gaming isn’t legal in the United States, and most off-shore gamers are located in questionable jurisdictions such as islands in the Caribbean or South Pacific.
BetOnSports has offices in the United Kingdom, as well as Central America.
Carruthers acknowledged that online gaming has had "a disgraceful image," and urged operators to strive to gain credibility.
Toward that end, he suggested a three-prong program.
"We can start by establishing corporate responsibility by publishing key corporate information for everyone to see," he said. "In addition, there needs to be a transparency in which transactions can be viewed, and audits in place if need be.
"The result will be a corporate governance that will provide credibility."
Finally, Carruthers said, customers "need to be protected."
"There has to be a ”˜fall-back’ system for customers who might get hurt," he said, adding that such a system could be an insurance-like pool that would pay off customers who lost money to a failing operator.
Carruthers, who traces his gaming roots to Scotland and England, said it’s "utterly bizarre" that the U.S. has "abdicated" online gaming to countries such as the United Kingdom, but that he believes it will one day be legalized and regulated in the U.S.
"I plan to lobby legislators here and push for legislation that will bring online gaming back to the U.S.," he said.