A Look Back at 2000 (July - December)

31 December 2000

July 3 - Vice President Al Gore voices his objection to the Goodlatte/Kyl legislation to ban gambling over the Internet, and his opposition could dim prospects for the bill's passage this year. Gore's concerns echo those expressed repeatedly by the Justice Department--that the bill contains loopholes that could lead to more wagering in the long run.

July 5 - The Philippine government grants Sports and Games Entertainment Corp (SAGE) a two-year old gaming company, a license to operate an online casino that will open its virtual doors sometime in August. The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp (Pagcor), a government-controlled agency that has exclusive franchise to run gambling operations in the Philippines, will get 20 percent of the new site's gross revenues in return for granting the company the right to operate the site.

July 5 - The Federal Group, Australia's first casino operators, announces the official launching of its government-licensed online casino.

July 11 - Links on a Texas-based website to offshore Internet gambling sites have prompted a massive legal battle in Texas. A group of law enforcement officers, under the instruction of the Attorney General, raid MonetizeMedia.com for allegedly promoting Internet gambling illegally. Thirty agents from the AG's Financial Crimes division and the Department of Public Safety raid the company's offices as well as the homes of three company officials. Among items seized are employees' computers, $35,000 in a payroll account, a company Internet server and numerous documents.

July 12 - Congressmen Bob Goodlatte and Bill Tauzin reach a crucial agreement that essentially clears the way for Goodlatte bring his Internet gambling prohibition bill up for a vote in the House. The biggest obstacle in front of the bill of late has been protests brought by family and religious groups over the pari-mutuel betting exemption, which they perceive as an expansion of gambling. With new language regarding pari-mutuel wagering being added to the bill, however, Goodlatte and Tauzin are satisfied that the bill does not expand gambling on the Internet. The modification clarifies that the bill prohibits all online gambling and only otherwise lawful State-regulated live pari-mutuel wagering activities that are conducted on a closed loop, subscriber-based system, not on the open Internet, are permitted.

July 17 - The United States House of Representatives votes 245-159 in favor of passing Rep. Bob Goodlatte's Internet Gambling Prohibition Act. Goodlatte needs two-thirds of the votes to pass the bill. It falls short by 24 votes, only garnering 61 percent.

July 17 - A complaint filed in December 1999 against American Wagering Inc. for accepting Internet wagers from Nevada bettors results in the company agreeing to pay a $10,000 fine and sell off its Net betting subsidiary.

July 20 - Joining the likes of Australia's Senate Inquiry and Productivity Commission, the U.K. Gambling Review Body and the U.S. Public Sector Gaming Study Commission, the Ontario government announces that it's conducting a study into the pros and cons of regulating Internet gambling.

July 20 - The Australian federal government is investing its interest in a new study that will examine the effectiveness of banning Internet gambling. The inquiry will explore whether a ban could be implemented as well as what the technical, social and economic consequences would be.

July 27 - While HR 3125, the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, has been left in limbo following its recent failure to escape the House, the Justice Department has introduced a prohibition bill of its own. HR 5020, the "Comprehensive Internet Gambling Prohibition Act of 2000," is introduced July 27. Rep. John Conyers is sponsoring the bill in an effort to extend the Wire Wager Act (USC 18-1084) to prohibit Internet gambling. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.


August 8 - World Interactive Gaming Corporation, an online casino operator that has battled with New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer since 1998, is ordered by a New York judge to pay $1.8 million in restitution to defrauded investors, plus a further $4.5 million in penalties.

August 9 - Ohio Telephone Account Betting Ltd. announces plans to launch an online wagering service called Winticket.com on Aug. 28.

August 9 - World Sports Exchange President Jay Cohen, convicted in February of conspiracy and several counts of violating the Wire Wager Act, is sentenced to 21 months in prison and fined $5,000.

August 11 - The Philippine government decides that Sports and Games Entertainment (SAGE)Corp does not have the legal right to operate an online casino in the Philippines. SAGE is now fighting to maintain its license, granted by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp, following an appeal by Philippine legislators to the Supreme Court to prevent the site's launch. The struggle continues through the end of the year without resolution.

August 21 - The march toward prohibition continues in Australia as legislation is introduced before Parliament to enforce a moratorium on the issuing of new interactive gaming licenses. The legislation, known as the Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Bill 2000, calls for a 12-month freeze on licensing while the government conducts its own extensive study into the feasibility and consequences of banning interactive gambling.

August 23 - MGM Mirage announces that it's teaming with Silicon Gaming, Inc. to develop an online gaming community that could set the stage for Nevada's first licensed online casino.

August 23 - Illegal porn distribution charges against Starnet Communications International, stemming from a raid of the company's offices in 1999 are dropped, but the battle over whether the company conducted illegal continues. The Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia files an affidavit before the state Supreme Court requesting a deadline extension to keep most of the seized items until February 2001 because the research is so complex and time-consuming. The extension is granted.

August 23 - Richard Branson's "The People's Lottery" appears to be a lock for landing seven-year operational rights to the world's largest lottery, the U.K. National Lottery. The National Lottery Commission announces that neither Branson's nor current operator Camelot's bids are satisfactory. Branson's consortium is given a month to come back with a better bid, while Camelot is dropped from consideration because of a major glitch in the lottery equipment of GTECH, Camelots technology provider.

August 30 - Jay Cohen, sentenced in a New York federal court August 9 for conspiracy and violating the Wire Act, files a request for an appeal.

August 31 - Australian Democrats Deputy Leader Senator Natasha Stott Despoja announces that the Democrats, which hold the balance of power regarding federal Internet gambling policy, are in favor of doing away with the 12-month moratorium proposed by the federal government in May. Instead, they support a three-month "non-retrospective moratorium" to enable the states to establish a minimum uniform set of national regulatory principles for Net betting in Australia.

August 31 - Harrah's Entertainment announces that it is purchasing a minority stake in iwin.com, a leading online games-for-prizes and lottery company. The two companies' player databases combined house more than 25 million names. In short, Harrah's has put itself in an excellent position to capture a huge part of the online gambling market should online gambling be legalized.


September 5 - The Australian Senate Committee Report on Moratorium Bill was released yesterday, and the committee's conclusion is that efforts to pass the Interactive Gambling (Moratorium) Bill should proceed.

September 7 - California state legislators vote on two measures that would affect the online gambling industry. The first bill, AB 2179, intended to prohibit Internet gambling in California, is killed because the Senate has determined that it would be too costly to implement. Meanwhile, a bill that permits telephone betting on horseracing within California passes both houses.

September 13 - Another bricks-and-mortar casino has jumped into the "clicks-and-mortar" betting world. Starnet Communications International announces a deal to bring Casino Riviera, a land-based casino in Antigua owned by U.K. bookmaker Victor Chandler, to the virtual world, making it Starnet's first land-based casino licensee.

September 22 - The British High Court rules that Camelot's bid for the seven-year lottery license has been unfairly dropped by the National Lottery Commission in favor of The People's Lottery consortium. The Commission's application for permission to appeal the decision is denied, and Camelot is back in the running.

September 24 - New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman conditionally vetoes the off-track betting and account wagering legislation sent to her by the legislature in June. The bill would have cleared the way for Internet wagering on horse racing. In her veto message to the legislature, Whitman says she "fully supports" the bill's intent but makes several changes that she thinks will make it more practical. In a significant move, she recommends that "the bill be changed to make NJSEA (the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority) the sole entity eligible to hold off-track wagering and account wagering licenses that are awarded by the New Jersey Racing Commission."


October 2 - The possibility of legalized Internet betting on horse races in California fails with the stroke of a pen as Governor Gray Davis vetoes AB 2760, a bill that would have allowed Internet betting on horseracing in the Golden State. Supporters of the legislation see Internet betting as an opportunity to recoup losses following the introduction of Indian casinos in California. "I cannot support the provisions lifting the state ban on Internet and telephone wagering," Governor Davis said. "It would expand the scope of gambling by allowing Internet and telephone betting on out-of-state and out-of-country horse races. And it would allow continual betting through commercial betting systems without being limited by the racing season." New Jersey Racing Commission."

October 2 - Toronto-based gaming software developer CryptoLogic Inc. introduces the first Internet casino to be licensed and regulated in Argentina. The operating company, Casinos del Norte S.A., joins a select few land-based casino operators to operate a virtual casino, including Lasseters, Pigs Peak Casino and a few others.

October 9 - Efforts to impose a one-year moratorium on the issuing Internet gambling licenses in Australia fail as the measure receives a tie-vote in the Senate.

October 13 - Tattersall's launches its tatts.com online casino, licensed by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission, despite the looming possibility of prohibition Down Under.

October 13 - Virtgame.com announces that its online gaming technology has received approval from the Nevada Gaming Control Board. With the Board's approval in hand, the company can launch its Las Vegas-based online sportsbook to accept wagers from Nevada residents.

October 18 - Hilton Gaming's Ladbrokes subsidiary opens the doors to its highly anticipated online casino at www.ladbrokescasino.com per what the company terms a "launch in preparation for the full-blown push in early December."

October 19 - The city of Las Vegas considers a plan that would see the city government joining an Australian-based Internet gambling website in licensing the city's name and official seals to vegasone.com, a new Internet business that claims to be in pursuit of an online gaming license in Australia. The company's proposal calls for the city to receive a percentage of the revenue generated by the site. The city council toys with the idea, but ultimately elects to pass.

October 25 - Legislation that would create a licensing and taxation structure for Net betting is proposed in Costa Rica. If it's passed the government could earn an estimated $4-5 million annually. An online sportsbook license could cost as much as $150,000.

October 26 - Harrah's Entertainment, Inc. officially announces the launch of free-play casino on its newly revamped website at www.harrahs.com. The games, available to members of Harrah's players club, are designed by gaming software developer Chartwell Technology.

October 27 - A group of File Hills Indian bands announces that it's preparing to offer interactive gambling services from their treaty lands in Saskatchewan. Five member bands from the Treaty Four Bands group have begun researching and developing the necessary by-laws for setting up an online casino as well as the prospect of offering an international license for the operation of an online gaming site to outside groups.


November 1 - Nicaragua becomes the latest government to issue interactive gambling licenses. Licensing agency WindnSea Gaming says the country has one of the best communications systems in Latin America.

November 3 - Sen. Jon Kyl concedes defeat in his campaign to get his Internet Gambling Prohibition bill passed. The bill is unlikely to make it out of the House this year, says Kyl, and he admits that the chances of it being re-introduced next year are slim. "I think it would be very difficult," explains Kyl. "The amount of money in Internet gambling is so great now that it has become a multibillion-dollar industry."

November 7 - Word leaks out that New Jersey Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto is drafting legislation that would make it legal for citizens to bypass a drive to Atlantic City and enable them to instead enjoy the offerings of a casino from their homes. Under the bill, companies currently licensed in the state to run land-based casinos would be allowed to operate e-casinos.

November 10 - Thanks to some new policy changes by both MasterCard and Visa, payment transactions between online casinos and their customers have become more difficult. Most damaging are the changes announced by MasterCard (effective immediately) regarding requirements for acquiring and processing remote gambling transactions.

November 13 - The future for gambling in the Philippines gets much more cloudy as a pair of scandals--one involving an underground lottery game, the other involving bribes paid to cover it up--leads to impeachment hearings (currently in progress) for President Joseph Estrada. The future of Internet gambling in the Philippines remains a unclear.

November 14 - The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the operators of World Interactive Gaming Corp. (WIGC) reach a settlement regarding charges that the company used deceptive claims when selling shares in the company.

November 17 - While gambling website operators happily ice champagne for what they believe to be the pending death of Rep. Goodlatte's prohibition bill, a few very important financial institutions jump in to break up the party by delivering three crippling shots below the belt. MasterCard, Visa and several card issuing banks adopt policies that deter the conducting of online gambling transactions. A few operators report that the changes have killed more than 75 percent of their business.

November 28 - Holland Casino, a state regulated and licensed land-based casino in the Netherlands, announces that it will launch an online casino. The casino projects that it will serve 30,000 in its first year of operations and triple that number within five years. The new casino, www.hollandcasino.nl, is developed at the request of the Dutch Minister of Justice M.M. Cohen.


December 5 - Opponents of legalized Internet gambling in Australia get what U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte and his supporters have sought unsuccessfully for months: a second chance. And they make the best of it. A bill to impose a moratorium on the issuing of Internet gambling licenses failed in a tie vote in October, but a second go at it proves fruitful. The moratorium measure is passed in the Senate by a 33-26 vote. The tiebreaker this time around is an amendment exempting sports and race wagering sites. Operators Gocorp and Federal Hotels are forced to pull down their online casinos to avoid fines of up to $1.1 million a day and both companies consider legal action against the government. Gocorp says the new law will cost it $30 million while Federal claims to be out $20 million.

December 6 - Hong Kong considers proposed amendments to its gambling ordinance that would make both bookmaking and betting with a bookmaker a criminal offense, even when such activity occurs through an offshore site. Promoting or facilitating the activities would also be against the law. The legislators have even added an amendment to make it illegal for broadcasting tips and odds for unauthorized racing events, including horse and dog-racing, within 12 hours before the events start.

December 13 - Nevada Assemblywoman Merle Berman says she's drafting legislation that would legalize and regulate Internet gambling in her state.

December 14 - Internet gambling regulation takes a step forward with the announcement that the Isle of Man government is well on its way toward regulating e-gambling. The Online Gambling Regulation Bill is approved by the Manx Council of Ministers and is headed to the House of Keys. The legislation is slated for fast track approval, and is likely to receive royal ascent by March 2001.

December 14 - With sagging sales revenues, Yahoo! Inc. decides to take a gamble with online bookmakers and winds up losing. On Dec. 1, the company starts placing advertisements for 30 football wagering services on its NFL Web page. The ads are pulled December 14 after the National Football League voices concern over them. The PGA later persuades to take down gambling-related ads on its page as well.

December 15 - All efforts to federally ban online gaming in the United States are pronounced dead, as the 106th Congress adjourns without any of the three prohibition bills passing.

December 19 - The National Lottery Commission chooses Camelot to operate the U.K. National Lottery for the next seven years. After finally making a decision months past the original deadline, the commissioners will probably be forced to defend their choice before a judge. Sir Richard Branson, whose People's Lottery consortium put up the losing bid, says he'll decide over the holidays whether he'll take legal action. Branson contests that his group clearly put forth the better bid.

A Glance at 2001

Mark Balestra

Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.