66°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Reduced standards for online gaming nearly a sure bet

The state Gaming Policy Committee could easily adopt the Boy Scouts’ motto: "Be Prepared."

For that’s its goal if and when online gaming becomes legal in the United States.

The need for regulatory preparedness was demonstrated at the committee’s Monday meeting in Las Vegas when a speaker described how easily he was able to deposit $100 to gamble online. Access a site from a Las Vegas hotel, then use a credit card from Gibraltar and a cellphone based in Spain.

Someone at the other end should have realized this was an illegal effort by Jim Ryan, co-CEO of bwin.party digital entertainment, who was testing if safeguards would screen him out. Nope. The online company just took the money, despite the red flags.

Ryan’s company is a major online gaming company operating in Europe and eager to expand to the United States. He reviewed the checks and balances used to protect the integrity of online betting.

He explained that his firm knows how to block players who say they want themselves excluded . It can prevent money laundering, and when it comes to cheating or collusion, bwin.party has records of every single hand ever played.

While screening minors is a priority for Nevada regulators – Gov. Brian Sandoval and Nevada Gaming Commissioner Pete Bernhard both have teenage sons they don’t want playing online poker – minors are a small percentage of prospective players, Ryan said. Out of 1 million players a month, his company identified 10 underage players trying to sign in over a year’s time.

The same day Ryan made his presentation , a Reuters news story was published that said he has questionable associations. It also made Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli sound like Nevada is willing to reduce regulatory standards in order to welcome the lucrative online gambling business.

Ryan wasn’t asked about the Reuters story, even though his company has a contractual relationship with MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming, which are both represented on the committee. (Jim Murren of MGM Resorts disclosed the relationship; Boyd’s Keith Smith didn’t make the meeting.)

According to Reuters, "In 2009, an earlier incarnation of the company paid $105 million while admitting to U.S. prosecutors it had run an illegal gambling operation and engaged in bank and wire fraud. Among its principal backers was a California-born woman who made a fortune in phone sex and Web pornography businesses that, like the pioneering online gambling company that became bwin.party, faced multiple allegations of wrongdoing."

And, the Reuters story said, Caesars Entertainment Corp. "is prepping for online poker by tying up with an Israeli company that in 2007 acknowledged settlement talks with the U.S. Justice Department over alleged breaches of anti-gambling law."

For Nevadans, the eyebrow-lifting quote in the story was taken from a hearing last year where Caesars Entertainment’s contract with that company, Dragonfish, a subsidiary of 888 Holdings, was found suitable and wouldn’t discredit Nevada.

"I don’t think as we look at companies that we can have perfection as the standard, because I think that would be a disservice to the state in attracting business here," Lipparelli said at that hearing.

Lipparelli told me Tuesday that he wasn’t suggesting standards for licensing would be lowered for online gaming.

Bwin.party has applied for a gaming license in Nevada and will be questioned about issues raised by Reuters as part of the licensing process, he said.

Realistically, most major online companies have had run-ins with law enforcement.

Unless the federal government regulates online gaming, Lipparelli believes a handful of states will go with the simplest regulation possible to benefit from online gaming .

The states, including Nevada, want to be prepared all right – prepared to rake in that online money.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
THE LATEST
Cab riders experiencing no-shows urged to file complaints

If a cabbie doesn’t show, you must file a complaint. Otherwise, the authority will keep on insisting it’s just not a problem, according to columnist Jane Ann Morrison. And that’s not what she’s hearing.

Are no-shows by Las Vegas taxis usual or abnormal?

In May former Las Vegas planning commissioner Byron Goynes waited an hour for a Western Cab taxi that never came. Is this routine or an anomaly?

Columnist shares dad’s story of long-term cancer survival

Columnist Jane Ann Morrison shares her 88-year-old father’s story as a longtime cancer survivor to remind people that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean a hopeless end.

Las Vegas author pens a thriller, ‘Red Agenda’

If you’re looking for a good summer read, Jane Ann Morrison has a real page turner to recommend — “Red Agenda,” written by Cameron Poe, the pseudonym for Las Vegan Barry Cameron Lindemann.

Las Vegas woman fights to stop female genital mutilation

Selifa Boukari McGreevy wants to bring attention to the horrors of female genital mutilation by sharing her own experience. But it’s not easy to hear. And it won’t be easy to read.

Biases of federal court’s Judge Jones waste public funds

Nevada’s most overturned federal judge — Robert Clive Jones — was overturned yet again in one case and removed from another because of his bias against the U.S. government.

Don’t forget Jay Sarno’s contributions to Las Vegas

Steve Wynn isn’t the only casino developer who deserves credit for changing the face of Las Vegas. Jay Sarno, who opened Caesars Palace in 1966 and Circus Circus in 1968, more than earned his share of credit too.

John Momot’s death prompts memories of 1979 car fire

Las Vegas attorney John Momot Jr. was as fine a man as people said after he died April 12 at age 74. I liked and admired his legal abilities as a criminal defense attorney. But there was a mysterious moment in Momot’s past.