Will online poker become legal?
A number of states -- seeing the potential for big tax revenue -- are slowly moving toward approving this segment of online gaming.
Online poker will become legal, Gary Loveman said in an interview with CNN. Already, several states are inching toward making it legal.
"I can say with tremendous confidence that people will be able to play play online legally in the United States in many places very soon," he said in the interview.
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You can play online poker now, but nearly all of the games are run by offshore companies. And while the federal government (and those of many states) do not approve of the activity, they don't often bust individuals who are playing.
"Today we have this bizarre situation where it is legal for an American to play online poker for money using a game that is provided by an illegal offshore entity," Loveman said. "I think it is very hard to imagine why we would allow Americans to buy a service that no American company can offer." If the federal government were to legitimize online poker, it would be able to regulate the activity, he added.
But here's the biggest incentive of all: a windfall from taxes. Loveman estimated that under a federally regulated scenario, the U.S. online poker industry could rake in $6 billion to $8 billion a year. If states did this on their own -- and that's looking the most likely -- the revenue would be $2 billion to $3 billion to start.
The federal government would get about 15% of that revenue if it regulated online poker, Loveman estimated.
Online poker is having a tough time getting approval in many states, however. A California state senator recently canceled a hearing about legalizing online poker, and observers said the proposal didn't have enough votes even to get out of committee. Indian casinos and local card clubs had concerns about the issue.
Nevada has made the most progress in clearing online poker. Its state Gaming Control Board gave Bally Technologies a unanimous recommendation to receive an interactive gaming license. Bally was the first company approved for licensing by the board, but it faces more hurdles before it can roll out an online poker service. Bally heads to the state's gaming commission later this month.
Delaware is also moving forward with an Internet gaming bill.
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John Stumpf acknowledges that growth has been slow, but he says he's still optimistic.
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