Global Casinos said today that it plans to join the growing number of virtual casinos online in an effort to grab a chunk of the $482 billion legal gambling business in the United States.
The online business may have the potential to be a profitable component of the established industry, but the laws that will govern online gambling, which cross state and national boundaries, are unclear.
"The books date back to the telephone and even the telegraph that prohibit using a wire that crosses a state or national boundary for gambling, and the Internet involves wires that are interstate and international so there's a small question about whether it's legal," said I. Nelson Rose, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in gambling law. "There's a bigger question as to how any government is going to enforce the laws."
The $3.7 million company will set up the Net casino in two phases in the next six months, said Steven Bright, president of Global Internet, a subsidiary of Denver-based Global Casinos. During the first phase, the company plans to develop five Web sites that will allow gamblers to play blackjack, poker, roulette, slot machines, and keno.
Gamblers will not be required to pay for the service but will have to register with the company, according to Bright. "There will be a variety of ways that are still under development that will allow a person to sign up," he said. "They can either maintain a bank account with the casino, or they could do it through credit cards."
Phase two will involve multiplayer games, commercial gaming sites, and remote hosting. "When it has reached its fruition and we have developed all the games and the multiplayer aspect, you can either call your college buddies and say let's meet at table seven in the blackjack area at 9 p.m. and all play blackjack together, or you can log on and play with somebody in Hong Kong or anywhere in the world," Bright added.
Players will be required to verify their age and credit card numbers, but Bright said the company hasn't reached the stage of setting up the security system yet. Global Casinos will start testing the sites in three months.
But whether the company will have to compete with many other gaming operations is still an open question. Rose said legislation has already been introduced in Congress that would make it a misdemeanor to place a bet on the Internet and a felony to accept a bet, Rose said.
He believes that even the suggestion of such laws are likely to scare off large companies from investing in the market. "If you have laws like that on the books then no legitimate corporation can get involved in the business because they would at the very least be aiding and abiding in crimes, and so you're left with small operators," Rose said.
Bright, however, remains optimistic despite the potential problems. "There is no regulation in the United States yet," he said. "Ultimately, it will be regulated, but nobody knows whether it's going to be at the federal level or whether it's going to be at a state level as it's currently regulated."