Louisiana Legislators May Take Up Online Gambling Regulation

Lawmakers in the state of Louisiana – a state with a well-entrenched land-based casino industry – may soon be taking up the issue of the regulation of online gambling, according to the web site NOLA.com.

A bill that would have allowed for Louisianans to access real money betting sites failed to gain traction in the state legislature last year.

As a result, a study was commissioned to look into the potential impact of such regulation, the results of which were released earlier this week.

State law currently forbids Internet betting, regulators have neutral stance on issue

Under current Louisiana gaming law, “gambling by computer” is not permissible. A law banning such activities was enacted in 1997.

While acknowledging that the Louisiana Gaming Control Board is neither for nor against the legalization of Internet-based wagering, the head of that body, Ronnie Jones, said, “The gaming board has no position on legalizing internet gaming. We’re neither for it or against it. Only the legislature can change the law.”

“I suspect a bill will likely be introduced, but I can’t confirm.” Jones added.

Unregulated market cited as a concern

A motivating factor behind the state’s interest in passing online wagering legislation is the fact that in the absence of regulation, Louisiana residents are still able to access unregulated real money poker and casino sites – operations that are frequently offered by shady offshore companies subject to little – or more likely – no oversight.

Such businesses provide few assurances and are absent of consumer protections that are in place in regulated markets, which in the United States are currently limited to the states of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, the most recent state to kick off online betting. The market in the Garden State launched in late November of last year.

Commenting on the dangers associated with accessing games proffered by unregulated operators, Jones said, “The players who do so, play at their own risk. They’re playing anyway, but it’s not regulated by the government, it’s not sanctioned by the government or taxed by the state.”

“If you won $1,000 and they didn’t want to pay you, there’s nothing you could do about it,” he commented.

Other groups stepping up opposition to unregulated sites

The unregulated market is receiving a fair amount of attention lately, as state by state regulation of real money online poker and other Internet-based casino games becomes the likely model by which Americans will have increased access to such sites in the years to come.

Recently, the newly-minted head of the American Gaming Association (AGA), Geoff Freeman, has asserted that the organization is refocusing its efforts not only to support iGaming regulation both at the state and federal level, but will also work to essentially wipe out the unregulated online betting market in the United States.

The AGA, which recently added three new members – Churchill Downs, Wynn Resorts, and Nevada-based Station Casinos, the operator of several so-called locals casinos in the Las Vegas area – has warned that a lack of regulation poses a far greater threat of access to real money betting sites by minors and problem gamblers, dubious financial practices, and other concerns, than does a regulated, closely-monitored industry.

“This is a critical step in the AGA’s evolution as a representative of the entire gaming industry. We will continue to be passionate advocates for the enormous value the gaming industry provides and there is increasing support for our agenda,” Freeman remarked last month when the additions to the organization were announced.

That new agenda, it would appear, will focus heavily on the promotion of legalized online poker and casino games.

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