Hurdles for US Online GamblingBy: Rick Balding, Friday March 12th 2010
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While Barney Frank and the supporters of online gambling in the United States are racing against time to get a regulatory framework in place before June 1 2010, there are lobbies that are trying to prevent this from happening. The opposition of the conservative legislators who are against online gambling on social and moral grounds is well known. However, earlier this week a powerful lobby that had so far been sitting on the fence has thrown its weight against online gambling.
This is the lobby of the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations. In a statement given to Indian Country Today they have made it clear that they do not want US citizens to gamble online. Daniel Tucker, chairman of the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, said, "The recent drive by members of Congress to legalize Internet casino gambling nationwide represents the greatest threat to Indian gaming in the last 20 years." The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 gave the American Indian tribes exclusive rights to conduct land based gambling in reserved areas. This has become a money printing machine. In 2008, 442 government casinos operated by 237 American Indian tribes in 28 states generated $26.8 billion in casino revenue. They naturally fear that if online gambling is legalized then their customers would switch over and this could hurt their revenues drastically.
Some experts claim that this fear is unfounded. They say that the overwhelming bulk of online gambling comes from poker and sports betting and would not therefore affect land casino revenues. Other experts suggest that the tribal casinos should themselves go online so as to stake a share of the change that is inevitable. However the Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations has decided to protect its interests by opposing Barney Frank’s bill. The power of this lobby can be gauged from the fact that the Californian American Indian tribes have been able to prevent the state from legalizing intrastate online poker. The Californian legislature was very keen on pushing this through to bolster the state’s dwindling revenues.
Meanwhile a survey conducted by the Fairleigh Dickinson University has challenged the common perception that most Americans are in favor of online gambling. The survey reports that two thirds of the respondents opposed changing the law in order to make online gambling legal. However, the respondents were not averse to land based gambling. 62% said they had gambled at a casino at least once and 33% said that they or someone in their household had visited a casino within the past year. The poll was conducted by telephone on a sample of 1,000 adults randomly chosen across the United States.
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