ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — With legal gambling now moving beyond the casinos and onto the Internet, the industry is bracing for the most far-reaching changes in its history.
A Las Vegas firm, Ultimate Gaming, on Tuesday became the first in the U.S. to offer online poker, restricting it, for now, to players in Nevada. New Jersey and Delaware also have legalized gambling over the Internet and expect to begin offering such bets by the end of this year.
And many inside and outside the industry say the recent position taken by the federal government that states are free to offer Internet gambling — as long as it doesn’t involve sports betting — will lead many cash-hungry state governments to turn to the Web as a new source of tax revenue.
Ten other states have considered some form of Internet gambling so far this year, but none has legalized it yet. Efforts to pass a national law legalizing online poker have sputtered, leaving states free to pass laws as they see fit.
“It’s no longer a question of if Internet gaming is coming; it’s a question of when,” said Frank Fahrenkopf, president of the American Gaming Association, the trade organization for the nation’s commercial brick-and-mortar casinos. “Unless there is a federal bill passed, we are going to have the greatest expansion of legalized gambling in the United States. I don’t think that’s what anyone intended, but it is what we’re seeing.”
The brave new world for gambling brings with it a host of questions and concerns. Will letting people bet online result in fewer visits to casinos, and therefore fewer dealers, beverage servers and hotel and restaurant workers at the casinos? And will it create even more problem gamblers?