A Change of Heart for the AGA?

7 December 2000
How much sway does the American Gaming Association has with Congress? After handing out more than $6 million in political contributions this year, AGA members could be forgiven for expecting some respect from Congressmen regarding issues near and dear to their hearts: preventing a college sports betting ban and discussing the future of Internet gambling in the U.S. (While the AGA has long favored banning Internet gambling, many question whether the association will soon change its position.)

The association met yesterday in Las Vegas, although little is known about what topics were covered in the meeting. It's been speculated, however, that AGA members may have discussed Internet gaming, especially since two major land-based casinos operators have already tiptoed online with free-play e-casinos.

The two farsighted operators, MGM Mirage and Harrah's, are sticking to play-for-fun gambling for now, although both companies have indicated that offering real money wagering in the future could be in the cards. Some industry pundits further suggest that even more land-based operators are setting up their own virtual casinos for future launches, having succumbed to the inevitable lure of the Internet: The River City Group/CCA forecasts that the Internet gambling market could earn more than $4.5 billion by 2002. Already Las Vegas sportsbook operators have seen their share of wagers drop. For example,Vegas bookies brought in $71million from Super Bowl bets, compared to $300 million wagered with online bookies. Figures like that are hard to ignore.

Following yesterday's meeting, AGA President Frank Fahrenkopf joined fellow AGA members and Nevada Senator Harry Reid for a conference call to discuss how well the industry will fare before Congress next year, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported. The participants refused to comment on the discussions, leaving many to speculate what the year will bring.

The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act is likely to rear its head next year, according to Rep. Bob Goodlatte's office, while a spokesman from Reid's office said, "Senator (John) McCain respects Senator Reid's (opposition to) the (college sports betting ban) and expects him to use every effort to defeat it."