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iGaming Comes to Vegas

Conference brings complete overview of new industry

The introduction of online gaming to the U.S. will take many forms, and last month in Las Vegas, the iGaming North America conference described how it might occur.

More than 500 attendees gathered at Planet Hollywood from a wide spectrum of the i-gaming and land-based casino industry. Executives with potential online gaming suppliers mingled with casino executives who will be charged with implementing the activity in their companies.

Produced by BolaVerde Media Group, egamingborkerage.com, the Innovation Group and Lewis & Roca, iGaming North America focused on the finances, marketing and operation of online gaming sites. Kicking off the conference was an address by Caesars Entertainment Senior Vice President and CFO Jonathan Halkyard, who explained how his company went from considering online gaming a threat to embracing it as a revenue-producer and loyalty vehicle.

Halkyard explained how there are regulatory and technical issues still to be resolved, but like the American Gaming Association, Caesars believes a federal solution is necessary to prevent a “patchwork set of regulations that is confusing to customers and law enforcement.”

Despite that view, Halkyard says Caesars will be a participant in states where legalization is being considered.

“Our shareholders’ interests wouldn’t be served if we didn’t look to participate,” he said.

Another popular presentation at the conference was the panel that discussed the role of gaming tribes in i-gaming. As it is across Indian Country, there was a diversity of views.

Stephen Hart, a partner with Lewis & Roca, explained that the new online poker bill proposed in California doesn’t address some tribal concerns that were also part of the discussion of two bills that were considered last year. For one thing, the fees the state wants to charge for online licenses is cost-prohibitive to most tribal entities.

Leslie Lohse, chairwoman of the California Tribal Business Alliance, called the bill a “slap in the face” to tribes in California. Along with all the other prescribed participants—card rooms, racetracks, bet aggregators and more—the structure of the bill challenges her most cherished value, tribal sovereignty, she said.

Sheila Morago, executive director of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association, says things aren’t any better at the national level, where the bills introduced in the House of Representatives barely address a role for Indian Country. And drafts of a bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid submitted in late 2010 weren’t any better.

From a legal perspective, Michael Rumbolz, chairman of the Internet Gaming Committee for Seminole Hard Rock Entertainment Holdings, says the Department of Justice opinion released just before Christmas didn’t completely clarify how internet gaming could be conducted by any entity, much less tribes.

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