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Guy W. Farmer: Internet Gambling: A Bad Bet for Nevada

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Oct/03/2010

I was surprised to learn that Congress is considering a bill that would legalize gambling on Internet poker. I think it's a terrible idea, and I'll tell you why.

As a former gaming regulator during the second Sawyer administration (1963-67), I saw the consequences of unregulated gambling up close and personal, and that's why I oppose Internet gambling and urge the Nevada Gaming Commission to prohibit its licensees from operating Indian casinos. In my view, we shouldn't authorize any form of gambling that falls short of our strict gaming control standards, which protect customers and assure that the state collects its fair share of gross winnings.

After an August meeting in Reno, gaming executives said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had indicated he would support legalization of online poker — a claim his staff later refuted.

As a former Gaming Commission chairman, Sen. Reid should know better. Apparently, Northern Nevada casino executives told Reid that online poker could harm their businesses and cause even more layoffs in their struggling casinos. Exhibit “A” is Reno's Siena Hotel-Casino, which has filed for bankruptcy and is barely managing to keep its doors open.

“It (online poker) is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Peppermill marketing director Bill Hughes. “It will only draw more money out of this state.”

“If you want Nevada to survive, you don't open that door,” warned Eric Dale, general manager of Baldini's Sports Casino in Sparks.

But not all casino executives are in agreement. Jan Jones, a former Las Vegas mayor who is a senior vice president at Harrah's, said online gaming would grow, not shrink, the market for Nevada gambling. She said younger gamblers “are all on the Internet.” That may be true but I have a couple of questions for Jones and Internet gambling fans: How do you regulate it and how do you collect the taxes?

The main problem with online gambling is that it's very difficult, if not impossible, to regulate. That's why Congress banned it several years ago and prevented U.S. credit card companies from paying winners who gamble on foreign websites. Hundreds of those sites are based on small Caribbean islands where law enforcement is minimal, non-existent and/or corrupt.

One congressional co-sponsor of the online gambling bill says that Americans wagered $12 billion with offshore betting sites last year. Well, those gamblers have only themselves to blame if they lose because they might as well throw their money down the nearest rat hole.

• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, worked for Nevada's gaming control agencies in the mid-1960s.

By Guy W. Farmer, The Nevada Appeal

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