LAS VEGAS (AP) — With billions of dollars at stake, the head of the gambling industry's main lobbying group sounded a pessimistic note Tuesday about the prospect of Congress passing Internet regulatory laws this year.
American Gaming Association chief Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. cast online wagering hosted by sites overseas as "the next frontier of our business," and one of the biggest threats to the casino industry in the United States.
But Fahrenkopf told reporters in Las Vegas that passing a measure such as one backed by Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona would need quick action during the post-election congressional session.
"We will need plenty of hard work and a little gambler's luck to see a federal bill pass this year," Fahrenkopf said during his annual state-of-the-industry media briefing at the Global Gaming Expo. "Obviously, nothing is going to happen before the election. That means a lame duck (session) is our last chance."
Fahrenkopf, a former Republican party national chairman, said about 85 countries have legalized online gambling, and some estimates say almost $35 billion is being bet worldwide online each year, including millions by people in the U.S.
"These are numbers generated with only minor participation by players in the U.S.," Fahrenkopf said, citing figures from a United Kingdom-based industry researcher, H2 Gaming Capital.
The number compares with gross commercial gambling revenues in the U.S. of some $35.6 billion for all of 2011. It does not include American tribal gambling, which the Senate Indian Affairs Committee reported topped $27 billion in 2011.
Meanwhile, casino revenues have increased so far this year in 17 of the 21 states that allow commercial gambling nationwide, and are up almost 6 percent overall, according to association data compiled from state regulators. The numbers include Ohio, where two casinos opened this year, and compare with the first nine months of 2011.