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Steve Wynn compares effort to outlaw online poker to Prohibition


Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn said Monday he’s undecided whether New Jersey’s decision to legalize online gaming will have a major impact on efforts in Congress to pass any federal legislation legalizing online poker.

“I’m not sure as I stand here where online gaming is going,” Wynn said. “Within the state of New Jersey it’s legal. Its status in America is much in doubt.”

Wynn said Sheldon Adelson’s point that there is a lack of control with online gaming “resonates with a lot of people.”

Citing moral concerns, Adelson, CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., created a group, the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, to push for legislation to ban online gaming in the United States.

The group also wants the FBI to study law-enforcement related issues. Adelson’s effort would also ban online gaming already underway in Nevada and Delaware.

New Jersey begins taking bets today. Other states are considering similar measures that would introduce online gaming,

“On the other hand, playing poker is America, and outlawing poker is like the Volstead Act where they outlawed beer,” Wynn told reporters in the Wynn Las Vegas atrium following the unveiling of two floral sculptures designed by Preston Bailey.

Wynn said you can outlaw online gaming but “people are going to do it anyway.” A recent survey by H2 Gambling Capital found illegal online gambling generated $2.6 billion last year in the United States.

“I think it’s questionable whether Sheldon will be able to stop it, which is not to say he is wrong,” Wynn said. “I just think this sort of thing has a life of its own. I‘m neither a proponent nor opponent of it. I’m an observer of this process and the chairman of a publicly traded company that is required to pay attention to such things.”

Wynn said his Las Vegas-based gaming company has “put their toes in the water” when it comes to Internet gaming by teaming with Caesars Entertainment Corp. in New Jersey. He said his company will “stay in the game.”

“I’m not the leader of this parade, “Wynn said. “The Harrah’s … Caesar’s people are because they’ve got the World Series of Poker. I know Gary Loveman (chairman and CEO of Caesars) believes in this as strongly as Sheldon opposes it.”

Wynn believes that neither Sheldon Adelson nor Gary Loveman will make the final decision on the legality of online gaming, but “everybody is going to try to influence the outcome.”

Although he understood the interest in online gaming, Wynn said his company’s focus is on proceeding with building a $1.5 billion resort in Everett, Mass.

“We’ll be in Boston,” Wynn said. “That process is underway. We’ll see how it plays out.”

Wynn’s Everett proposal is the only project in the eastern part of the state to be approved by voters. Voters in Milford and East Boston recently rejected rival proposals. MGM Resorts International’s Springfield, Mass., plan is alone in the western part of the state.

But Wynn has a couple of weeks to find out if it has passed a state background check. The extensive process derailed Caesars Entertainment’s deal with Suffolk Downs in East Boston; concerns were raised over a licensing deal with a separate company that was partly owned by a businessman with alleged Russian mob ties.

“It takes a partnership with a very savvy, sophisticated government,” Wynn said. “You can’t do it without both parties being on the same page. So … we are in Massachusetts to help educate everybody and show them what it takes to build a place like (Wynn Las Vegas).

 

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