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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Could Missouri Be Next State to Push For Internet Gaming?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 1:46 PM

click to enlarge Online gaming: New Jersey legislators deal. The governor folds.
  • Online gaming: New Jersey legislators deal. The governor folds.
The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece yesterday about state lawmakers trying to tiptoe around federal laws prohibiting online gambling.

The effort put forth by legislators in New Jersey and Iowa would allow only residents of their respective states to participate in the Internet wagering -- a system known as intrastate gambling.

In New Jersey, both houses approved the bill earlier this year allowing Atlantic City casinos to run online gambling sites for state residents. Meanwhile, the Iowa bill would allow residents of the Hawkeye State to play Internet poker. Sponsors of the Iowa bill hope the online gaming would provide $30 million a year to state coffers. California and Florida are considering similar bills to help plug state budget deficits.

Here in Missouri no similar legislation has been proposed, and Les Hahn, an enforcement manager with the Missouri Gaming Commission, says such a bill would face significant hurdles.

"It would require a state constitutional amendment allowing for intrastate gambling," Hahn tells Daily RFT. "Currently the only exception to state wagering laws are the state lottery, charitable sweepstakes and bingo and gambling in riverboat casinos."

Moreover, since prosecutors generally target the suppliers of online gaming, individual bettors are still able to gamble online without much fear of breaking the law.

In January, nine of the 13 casinos in Missouri saw declines in admissions over December numbers and eight saw declines in revenue. Which raises the questions: At what point does Missouri's gaming reach market saturation? And will online wagering bring in that many more patrons?

"That's what you wonder about Iowa," says Hahn. "Do they have a big enough pot of people who want to play online poker to make it worthwhile?"

Update: During the writing of this post, New Jersey governor Chris Christie vetoed his state's bill saying he had "legal and constitutional concerns" with the proposed legislation.

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