By Simon Collins, Director, Cashcade Ltd.
We know he likes poker but will Barack Obama, now the forty-fourth President of the United States, reverse or change the controversial UIEGA legislation that (theoretically) prevents US citizens gambling online? It’s certainly a hot topic on the new administration’s ‘Citizen’s Briefing Book’, an online forum for discussion about future legislation, where the subject is one of the most popular debates on the site.
Of course, no one knows what President Obama’s plans are. However, understandably, the US gambling industry gets very excited at the slightest hint that the law may be reversed or even watered down. For example, the efforts of Obama’s team to restrict any so-called ‘midnight legislation’ that George W Bush hopes to squeeze through at the very end of his presidency, which could theoretically delay UIEGA, has raised the gambling world’s hopes. Similarly, news that a trade group, called the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, has made some progress in challenging the law has started speculation about the future, as has talk of California State possibly passing its own pro-online gambling legislation.
Whether or not President Obama takes action on UIEGA, the law has certainly created some counter-intuitive scenarios. The entire world knows that Las Vegas is the planet’s home of gambling, but mega brands such as Mirage and MGM Grand are only notable by their absence online. Which has left a hole that shady unregulated operators have been all too happy to fill, just like Chicago during prohibition. For other strange implications of the law, consider the lists of people named as the ‘most influential in online gambling’. Apparently, half of the industry’s superstars are American politicians! Odd indeed, especially for an illegal business.
During harder economic times, the allure of the huge revenues that gambling’s American super-brands could command online may be too much to resist. Already, incredible wealth has been destroyed and huge names are floundering, as tourism dwindles and the ‘Las Vegas Casino Death Watch’ grows. And with Obama’s team preparing a $1 trillion gamble of their own to try and reignite the US economy, the tax revenues that Nevada’s giants and others could create online, may also be too good to pass up. Revenues that, prior to UIEGA, some believed could be as high as $20bn by 2012. Very handy sums indeed to a new President. Especially if the changes were presented as clamping down on modern day Al Capones.
UIEGA is one aspect of the massive Perfect Storm that is raging through the global gambling industry. Its effects are felt around the world and particularly in the UK, arguably today’s world capital of gambling online, due to its progressive, carefully-regulated environment.
President Obama is well-known for playing his cards close to his chest. But is the most powerful man on the planet holding a trump card for the world’s gaming and gambling industry? We can only wait and see.
What do you think? Is change coming to the American gambling?
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