Exactly what they’re afraid of

Panelist at Global Gaming Expo says online poker may be just the beginning

Richard N. Velotta

Richard N. Velotta

Had there been a real table set up for the round-table discussion on the state of the casino industry at the recent Global Gaming Expo, the CEOs gathered around it would have been kicking the shins of Walter Bugno, the head of Spielo International.

Bugno explained that Internet casinos wouldn’t make much money with online poker because the casino is merely a facilitator for players against players. Other members of the panel added that instead of taxing casinos for poker play, players should be taxed on their winnings.

Spielo is a gaming equipment designer with European roots. The company is owned by the Lottomatica Group of Italy and has offices worldwide.

A bigger opportunity, he said, would be in online sports wagering and other casino games, such as the ones played for free on social media sites.

Maybe none of it makes any difference anyway, because the industry in general is pessimistic about its chances of getting any kind of bill approved in the upcoming lame-duck session. It’s not that proponents are giving up. They’re just acknowledging that there are too many obstacles to pass legislation this year.

To be clear, most industry leaders haven’t said publicly that they support anything but online poker — and there’s even a split among some of the big companies over that. Sheldon Adelson, for example, whose company hosted G2E at the Venetian, opposes the legalization of online poker.

Most companies are on the other side, but Adelson has considerable influence because he’s donated so much money to politicians who eventually may have a role in whether online poker is approved.

But Bugno’s comments reflect an attitude that many online gaming opponents fear. They’ve said they want to keep the camel’s nose out of the tent, which is why they vehemently oppose any form of online gaming.

If Internet poker is approved, is it inevitable that other forms of gambling would follow?

The American Gaming Association has been clear that it’s only pursuing the approval of Internet poker legislation. But that strategy seems to have hit a dead end. That’s why there has been a push by some states, including Nevada, to approve intrastate poker play. We’re likely to see play begin here by 2013.

But as another panelist at the G2E session, Patti Hart, the CEO of International Game Technology, pointed out, most states don’t have the volume to make Internet poker lucrative. Some state leaders have talked about developing compacts to allow residents of other states play their games.

That might work for Nevada if it were to sign such a compact with California. But that’s a pretty complicated proposition considering issues like tax revenue sharing and regulatory compliance.

Meanwhile, companies in other countries continue to grow their online gaming revenue. Most European companies laugh at the United States for not joining the competition.

Bugno is an Australian who has worked around the world. He obviously has seen that and added an interesting footnote to the debate.


CORRECTION: Comments made by Walter Bugno, head of Spielo International, have been clarified. | (November 1, 2012)


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  1. The reality of online Poker approval at the Federal level will eventually happen, but not for many years to come.

    What many gaming companies fail to understand is, once online Poker is approved at the Federal level, the Feds will have a big hand in the revenue, and full access to the data base of online Poker players. Full access to information on all players and auditing powers over the companies that provide the hardware and software.

    You can be assured Homeland Security will have full access to all documents. Especially if an investigation on a player(s) is at hand.

    Currently the States with approved gaming regulate the casinos and the games, not the Federal Government. This will change with Federal approval of Online Poker. The main point for the Federal Government to push into some sort of regulation with online Poker, Online Poker will cover the entire USA. This is a form of Commerce that will require Federal oversight.

    You can be sure the information will be a huge value to Homeland Security..... Access the Feds currently do not have unless a court order is in hand.