LAS VEGAS – It could be at least a year before MGM Mirage decides whether the company is able to operate an online betting site. Company executives say they first want to be certain that the technology exists to prevent illegal ‘net betting and that casino industry regulators are comfortable with any arrangement.
“We said from the beginning we weren’t going to go down this road at all without the cooperation and blessing of the respective gaming regulators who govern us,” MGM Mirage President and Chief Financial Officer Jim Murren said Friday.
The company announced this week that it has signed a deal with WagerWorks and Orbis to develop technology and content to permit online wagering. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
“Online gambling is a very dynamic industry, and it’s a growing a lot, and it’s largely unregulated,” said WagerWorks President and Chief Executive Officer Andrew Pascal. “We recognized it was only going to continue to grow.”
An estimated 50 percent to 90 percent of all online wagers originate from within U.S. borders, according to industry observers, generating from $2 billion to $4 billion in annual revenues. The Las Vegas Strip generated nearly $5 billion in casino revenues last year.
But web betting from within U.S. borders is believed by federal prosecutors to be illegal although some observers have questioned whether a four-decades-old law prohibiting interstate phone wagering also pertains to online betting.
A House Judiciary subcommittee voted Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to ban the practice. The bill sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., would amend the U.S. Wire Act of 1961, although similar proposals have stalled during recent congressional sessions.
In September, MGM Mirage received a license from the Isle of Man, a small semi-independent island nation off the coast of Great Britain, to operate a Web betting site. MGM Mirage Chairman Terry Lanni has been the Togel Hongkong casino industry’s most forceful advocate of expansion into the operation of cybercasinos, although he has said his company will not accept bets from within U.S. borders so long as that practice is considered illegal.
“It’s going to happen when it happens,” Murren said of the introduction of an MGM Mirage betting site. “We didn’t set a deadline for ourselves.”
For much of the past year MGM Mirage has worked with WagerWorks to present such online games as video poker and slots from its Web site, which do not offer monetary prizes but rather such giveaways as vacation packages, buffet meals, show tickets and hotel rooms. Nevada gaming regulators have ruled the practice is legal.
WagerWorks’ Pascal, a founder of the mid-1990s slot innovator Silicon Gaming and a nephew of Desert Inn owners Steve and Elaine Wynn, said his company does have the technology to prevent illegal and underage ‘net wagering – but he offered a caveat.
“We can guarantee compliance standards that meet or exceed what you have in land-based casinos,” Pascal said. “The reality is today there is a minor playing (somewhere) on the casino floor in Las Vegas. There is not this 100 percent compliance. To hold the online industry to that (100 percent) standard is just unreasonable.”