The biggest potential change would be in the United States, where Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, is expected to introduce legislation within days, aimed at overturning the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. “He supports it and wants to move forward on it,” said Steve Adamske, communications director for the House Financial Services Committee, of which Mr. Frank is chairman. “There is a lot of gambling where no revenue coming in to the governments,” said Gavin Kelleher researcher at H2 Gambling Capital in Ireland.
Mr. Frank failed to do so once before, in 2007 but advocates of liberalization think they might get a friendlier hearing in Washington this time. President Barack Obama, boasted of his poker prowess during the election campaign and the Democrats, who are seen as less hostile to Internet gambling than the Republicans, have tightened their grip on Congress.
Analysts say that may be getting a little bit ahead of the game. Opponents of a repeal, including the Christian Coalition of America and the National Football League, have vowed to fight any effort to end the ban. Michele Combs, a spokeswoman for the Christian Coalition, said the group was gearing up for a massive campaign of letter-writing and lobbying to try to prevent any loosening of the law.
U.S. sports leagues, meanwhile, worry that the ease of online betting increases the chances of game-fixing. Even the most bullish advocates of online casino games and gambling acknowledge that Internet sports betting – as opposed to poker or casino games – is highly unlikely to be legalized. “There’s now a better chance for some sort of gaming legislation to be approved,” said Nick.
Batram, an analyst at KBC Peel Hunt, a brokerage firm in London. “But it took longer than expected to put anti-gaming legislation in place so maybe it will take longer than expected to remove it.”
Since the 2006 law was passed, North America has been passed by Europe and Asia, according to figures from H2 Gambling Capital. The law makes it illegal for financial institutions to handle payments to online gambling and casino games sites. Some people using overseas payment processors to ensure that online gambling remains an excellent business.
Now analysts say one possibility for European companies should the ban be lifted, would be to form partnerships with American casino operators. That would allow the European companies like PartyGaming to share their online expertise. Operating alone, they might struggle to obtain licenses, given their history of run-ins with U.S. law enforcement, analysts said.
So far, Las Vegas executives have maintained a cautious stance about legalization of online gambling. Steve Wynn, chief executive of Wynn Resorts, said in an e-mail message that he thought it would be “impossible to regulate and even though it would be a benefit to our company, we are strongly opposed,” he said.
Several other online gambling companies whose shares are traded in London, including 888 Holdings and Sportingbet, are still in talks with the U.S. Justice Department. Analysts expect them, along with companies like Bwin International, whose stock is traded in Vienna, to be involved in a round of consolidation in the industry – along with a possible eventual move back into the U.S..