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Pragmatic Solution

MGM's Murren eyes state-by-state legalization

Pragmatic Solution

Forget that federal bill legalizing online poker. It’s not going to happen, according to MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO James Murren. But don’t blame Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the senior senator from Nevada.

“Blame the House Republicans,” he insists. “That’s where it is being held up.”

Murren, who was speaking at a Mississippi gaming conference, and other gaming executives have long favored federal legislation over states legalizing online gaming independently.

“It is better at every level than a state-by-state solution,” he said. “You can more accurately regulate, enforce, tax. You can have a better crime prevention component to it.”

But Murren says the lack of federal action won’t delay the implementation of online gaming.

“It will be here this year,” Murren said. “It won’t be here likely at a federal level because the federal government is doing what they do best—nothing at all. It will be done at a state-by-state level and we will be actively engaged.”

While Murren says he would still prefer a federal solution to the issue, he said changing strategy to comply with the reality of the situation is a “pragmatic” approach.

But it’s not just online gaming that interests Murren. He says social games and play-for-free sites are also a burgeoning trend.

He says he is looking to partner with the companies that actually operate these games today.

“The major gaming companies have an enormous opportunity to interact with, learn from, partner with, collaborate with the gamers,” he says.

Companies like Zynga are currently negotiating with several casino companies, some of which seem threatened by the number of people that are playing on these sites. Murren is not.

“I’m not intimidated by the competition,” he said. “I think this is a great opportunity for companies that are willing to compete, that have the assets that can compete and have the horsepower to do it.”