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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Business Week on Net Gambling Going Underground
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The Economist had editorialized about how America's recent Internet gambling ban, The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, would actually do little to deter online betting. This week, Business Week picks this silly law apart. As Business Week's Catherine Holahan reports:

Indeed, the new law will do little to stop online gambling, say gamblers, betting companies, and industry analysts alike. Instead, the law will drive out regulated, publicly traded companies like PartyGaming, the Gibraltar-based parent of PartyPoker, and make way for private gambling companies and banks based in nations where such industries are loosely policed at best. As a result, the new law could ultimately make billions of dollars in U.S. online gambling transactions more difficult to trace, and increase the likelihood that funds end up in criminal hands. "It leaves an opening for some of the more unscrupulous companies coming in from unregulated places," says Frank Catania, past director of New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement and president of Catania Consulting Group.

The exodus is under way--and the companies that are on the way out are those with the most financial transparency. PartyGaming, 888Holdings, and SportingBet, all of which are traded on the London Stock Exchange, have said they're exiting the U.S. market. Roughly 70% of PartyGaming's $319 million in second-quarter sales and 50% of 888 Holdings' revenue came from the U.S.

Private online gambling companies, on the other hand, have been defiant in the face of the new law, arguing it does not apply to them and cannot be enforced. Bodog Entertainment Group, which operates a Costa Rican online gambling site, has no plans to bar U.S. customers. "We've structured our business in such a way that we'll have no problems adapting to any changes in the online gaming environment," says Bodog founder Calvin Ayre. Similarly, PokerStars released a statement saying its lawyers had "concluded that these provisions do not alter the U.S. legal situation with respect to our offering of online poker games.

For these reasons among many others, my friend (and former Cato Institute mentor) Tom Bell labels the measure "The UnInGEn-ious Act." Read his excellent analysis here and here.

posted by Adam Thierer @ 10:02 AM | Internet Governance

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