A Look Back at 2001 (January - June)

31 December 2001

January 4 - Nevada Senior Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rodefer files an opinion letter clarifying that it's illegal for Nevada-based play-for-free online casinos to award cash prizes based on credits won. The letter states that a player betting with free credits is still making a wager if money is awarded for amassing enough free credits. The policy is a bit of a setback for Harrah's and MGM Mirage, which are both trying to establish a solid customer base for their free-play online casinos.

January 8 - Paris's Ritz Hotel enters the I-gaming business by launching a Ritz-themed online casino. It's the second mega-brand brought online by Gaming Internet Plc, which launched an online casino under the Harrods department store brand in 2000.

January 8 - Indiana State Representative Jerry Denbo introduces HB1042, a bill that would prohibit Internet gambling in that state. Denbo concedes the bill doesn't stand much of a chance, but moves forward nonetheless in an effort to protect the children in his state.

January 8 - A second U.S. state prohibition bill emerges in Iowa. HF 13 would amend the state's criminal code by adding language to prohibit the use of the Internet "for the purpose of conducting or participating in a lottery, bookmaking, or gaming, or for a related gambling purpose, and subjecting violators to existing penalties." Under the terms of the bill, Iowa residents would be prohibited from betting or gambling over the Internet. Violators would face fines ranging from $250 to $10,000 or up to 10 years in prison.

January 9 - Dennis Neilander is named chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Neilander succeeds Steve DuCharme, who had served on the board for 10 years.

January 16 - Visa International's board of directors sends member banks another notice detailing its Internet gambling transaction policies. The reminder is an indication that Visa's getting serious about enforcing a policy the forbids member banks from facilitating online gambling transactions. Those caught violating Visa's regulations could get slapped with fines as high as $25,000 per violation. The greatest threat to the I-gaming industry to date is coming into full swing.

January 18 - New Jersey State Assemblyman Tony Impreveduto introduces A-3150, a bill that would permit Atlantic City's casinos to offer real-money casino gambling over the Internet. Nevada and New Jersey are now officially off to the races.

January 24 - The United Kingdom is finally turning the corner. Stephen Timms, financial secretary to the Treasury, introduces a plan that would eliminate the Great Britain's current 9 percent tax. The new flat-rate levy is seen as a way for England to compete with offshore locations offering lower taxes.


February 6 - The I-gaming market peaks. Historic data from the RivTrend Global I-Gaming Stock Index shows that the index grew by 11 percent in the month of January. The North American Sub Index rose 24 percent, while its EuroAustralia counterpart was up 10 percent.

February 7 - The Financial Action Task Force releases a report outlining common Internet money-laundering schemes and in it suggests that Internet gambling is a high-risk industry. A few days later the U.S. Senate releases the results of a year-long study coming to the same conclusion.

February 12 - Great Britain's High Court rules that the use of the British Horseracing Board's database of racing information without payment is unlawful. The decision stops bookmaker William Hill from extracting such information, but it has implications for other information gatherers as well.

February 12 - The prohibition effort on Capitol Hill rises again as U.S. Rep. James Leach, R-Iowa reintroduces the Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Bill. Many industry experts say that, out of all the I-gaming prohibition bills to receive consideration in Congress, the Leach bill presents the biggest threat to online gambling businesses because it seeks to cut off the lifeblood of interactive gambling--the transfer of funds.

February 14 - Australia's first regulated online casino, Lasseters Online, and publicly held company Gocorp Limited merge to form a publicly traded interactive gaming giant. The deal gives Lasseters a long sought-after public status and brings Gocorp, which had to shut down its online casino during the country's moratorium on Internet gambling, back to life.

February 15 - Three big players come onto the scene. After months of rumors, Playboy Enterprises official enters the game by signing a deal with Ladbrokes through which Playboy.com will launch a Playboy-branded Internet sports book powered by Ladbrokes' technology. Meanwhile, software developer Boss Casino announces a partnership with Sun International Hotels Limited that will result in a Sun-branded online casino. Finally, Macau casino mogul Stanley Ho launches DrHo.com, an avatar casino at which gamblers can play games in real time against live dealers.

February 23 - California rejoins the prohibition club through the introduction of legislation in the State Assembly. If passed, AB 1229 would ban any person from operating or betting against any prohibited online gambling game, as defined within the bill, for money checks, credit, or any other representative of value. It would also make it a misdemeanor punishable by fine and/or imprisonment to offer prohibited online games to any person physically located within the state or operate such a game from a host server that's located in the state at the time of the transaction.

February 27 - English and Irish racetracks suspend action until March 7 as an outbreak of foot-and-mouth devastates the European racing industry.

February 28 - The latest trend in I-gaming officially arrives as WorldWinner.com launches a Web site at which players pay to participate in "games of skill" for real-money prizes. With the element of chance removed, the concept presents an opportunity to offer pay-for-play games legally in the United States. To date it hasn't been challenged in the courts. Much larger companies, including Disney, will soon latch on to the trend by producing skill-based games of their own.


March 2 - An Arkansas State Senate committee passes a bill that would allow Internet and phone betting on horse and greyhound races. Senate Bill 602, which is eventually passed and enacted in April, calls for the state to cut its privilege tax on pari-mutuel wagering at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs and allow wagers to be placed by telephone or the Internet at Oaklawn and Southland Greyhound Park in West Memphis.

March 7 - Two months after an effort to legalize online casino gambling in New Jersey is born, Nevada's Assembly answers with a bill of its own. Introduced by Assemblywoman Merle Berman, AB 296 would authorize the Gaming Commission to "adopt regulations governing the licensing and operation of interactive gaming if the commission first makes certain determinations."

March 7 - British bookmakers celebrate as Chancellor Gordon Brown's introduces England's next budget, which includes plans for scrapping betting duty. The 9 percent betting duty will be replaced by a 15 percent company tax on gross profits. The Treasury expects the policy to be in place by January 2002.

March 13 - Two Internet gambling prohibition bills are introduced in Oregon. One tackles payment methods used for playing online and would permit financial institutions to collect on Internet gambling debts. The other, which also focuses on payment methods, would make it illegal to gamble over the Internet or to operate illegal Net betting sites.

March 13 - A U.S. District Court judge dismissed two class-action lawsuits brought against MasterCard International and Visa International for debts incurred by players on Internet casino sites. The two cases are the first federal attempt to address whether credit card companies can collect payment for customers' gambling debts. Industry attorneys claim the ruling establishes that the Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) does not apply to online gambling.

March 24 - Nearly a year after Louisiana legalizes account wagering, the state's first Internet race betting service debuts. Through the launching of "Net Bet," Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans becomes the first domestic racing association to offer an integrated Internet and telephone account wagering system.

March 27 - As expected Australia's government makes a move toward banning online casino gambling. The announcement comes near the end of the country's yearlong moratorium on online gaming, which is due to expire in May. The government's newly proposed law would make it illegal for Australian operators to take bets from Australian residents, but it would enable them to continue operating using a customer base of players located outside Australia.

March 27 - Legal online casino gambling based in the United States is closer to a reality than ever before as legislation permitting online casinos is introduced in the U.S Virgin Islands. Proponents for the "Virgin Islands Internet Gaming and Internet Gambling Act" intend to use proceeds from Internet gambling to fund technology programs for public schools.

March 29 The North Dakota State Assembly passes a bill that amends state law to legalize account wagering. Included in the bill is language that makes wagering via electronic means possible. The amendment will go into effect Aug. 1.


April 2 - The Internet Business Alliance of Nevada establishes the Interactive Gaming Institute to provide professional support for the development of guidelines and business practice principles to help ensure that the necessary software, documentation, equipment and other technologies necessary to meet Nevada's stringent gaming regulations are developed.

April 5 - Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reintroduces his bill to prohibit Nevada sports books from taking bets on college games and plans a fast track to get the legislation to final Senate votes within a month. Says McCain: "Congress must act to close the loophole that allows one state to serve as a national clearinghouse for betting on our youth."

April 10 - A class-action lawsuit filed in Oregon claims that credit card companies cannot collect on gambling debts because they were incurred by means of an illegal activity. Lead plaintiff Cathy Buchal, who lost a combined $355,844 at four online casinos, is suing a group of online casino operators, software providers and financial institutions for twice that amount and is seeking an additional $1,084,663 in damages from the billing companies used by the various online casinos.

April 13 - The future nears in Isle of Man. Legislation that would establish a licensing and regulatory system for online casino gambling awaits royal ascent after completing passage through both the House of Keys and the Legislative Council. Officials expect the bill to be enacted by June or July.

April 18 - Internet gambling is on again in the Åland Islands off the southwest coast of Finland as the Finish supreme court rules that PAF (Åland Islands Slot Machine Association) can legally operate an online gambling site based in the self-governed Finnish territory. The association has endured a legal battle since launching its online service in December 1999.

April 20 - The Michigan attorney general's office warns Youbet.com, Ladbroke and Magna Entertainment Corporation that legal action will be taken against them if they don't immediately discontinue accepting wagers via telephone and over the Internet from Michigan bettors. "The law in Michigan is clear: Off-track betting is illegal, whether it occurs online or on the phone," Attorney General Jennifer Granholm explained in a letter to the three companies. "Failure to abide by the law will result in charges against these firms."

April 25 - Nevada's Assembly gives the initial green light to Internet gambling by passing an amended version of AB 578 by a vote of 37-2.

April 27 - A brother and sister in Illinois file a $1 billion lawsuit in a Madison County circuit court against several large corporations accused of law violations linked to the operation of wire communication-based gambling services. Defendants, accused of racketeering, include Starnet Communications International Inc., the National Collegiate Athletic Association, Sportsline.com Inc., CBS Corporation, Viacom International Inc, Secure Entertainment Corporation, Acorn Development Group LLC, Bank of America, Visa USA Inc. and MasterCard International Inc.


May 1 - Wireless gambling is establishing itself as the killer app it was projected to be. Weeks after US Off-Track became the first American-based firm to offer wireless application platform (WAP) betting, two more Net betting firms, Intertops.com and Poker.com, announce plans of venturing into the WAP arena. More will follow.

May 2 - Ireland passes the Horse and Greyhound Racing Bill, calling for the newly formed Horse Racing Ireland to replace the Irish Horseracing Authority. The policy establishes permanent and guaranteed funding for the horse and greyhound industries and associated matters. In addition, the 0.3 percent turnover levy charged for off-course betting is abolished.

May 7 - Online sports betting arrives in South Africa via SportsBet.co.za, an online wagering service using a new technology platform developed by LiveBet Online and operated by Atlantic SportsBet. Based in Cape Town, the new site offers spread betting and fixed-odds wagering.

May 11 - England's compelling Go Racing consortium (a partnership between Arena Leisure plc, British Sky Broadcasting and Channel 4) signs a 10-year deal with 49 of Britain's 59 race courses. The contract creates global multi-platform development of the sport and puts Go Racing in a position to dominate in the interactive television sector.

May 19 - Australia's one-year moratorium on Internet gambling expansion comes to a close with no decision on whether the government will prohibit online casino gambling Down Under.

May 30 - Jay Cohen, convicted in 2000 for violating the Wire Act of 1961 through his involvement with online sports betting service World Sports Exchange, appeals his conviction before a three-judge panel in New York City. No timetable is given for when the appellate court will render a decision.

May 30 -Discover Card enters into a court-ordered agreement preventing it from operating merchant accounts with online casino operators doing business with California residents. The ruling follows an earlier decision in which Discover and American express were sued by an online gambling who racked up more than $70,000 in gambling debts.


June 1 - Legislation passed in Antigua and Barbuda establishes new regulations and policies for online gaming operators based in the country. The new regulations address a number of concerns, including changes to prevent money laundering and underage gambling. Provisions for protecting players were created as well.

June 4 - The groundwork is set for interactive gaming in Nevada as the state's legislature passes a bill legalizing online casinos. It will still be several months, however, before Nevada's mega-resorts are taking bets online.

June 11 - Station Casinos announces the formation of an interactive spin-off to focus on remote play. The new company, GameCast Live, LLC, is developing in-room and on-premises gambling applications in the casino/resort and cruise line markets.

June 15 - The French national lottery (La Française des Jeux) launches live cash Internet gaming for residents of France and its overseas territories. The initial rollout features three instant lottery games.

June 18 - New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement and Consumer Affairs files civil lawsuits against Alohacasino.com, Royalclubcasino.com and 7sultants.com for violating state law by accepting wagers from individuals located in New Jersey, advertising an illegal practice in New Jersey and accepting wagers from underage gamblers in New Jersey.

June 18 - Another well known land-based casino operator enters the online gambling business as Aspinalls Online plc, the newly formed subsidiary of England's prestigious Aspinalls group, debuts two online casinos. The new sites accept bets from players all over the world.

June 28 - After a marathon debate and weeks of political compromise and intense public argument, the Australian Senate passes the Interactive Gambling Bill by a vote of 33-28. The bill bans Australian-based Internet gambling sites from providing services to Australians and to bettors in all countries opposed to the sites. Exemptions, however, allow sites offering horse and sports betting as well as online lottery sales to continue operating.

[July - December]

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.