Advocacy group wants online gambling legalised in US 

by Ethan Anderson Last Updated
Social casino games in the spotlight

US online gambling advocacy group iDevelopment & Economic Association (iDEA) is calling on states to allow people to gamble online.  

Vegas Slots Online reports that this request comes as most of the United States enters its second official week in semi-quarantine, to slow the spread of coronavirus, with the vast majority of casino employees now out of work. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, iDEA is “pushing” states to lift restrictions on internet betting so that at least some of the revenue that is being lost daily can be sourced from online games. 

The group has presented an option of gubernatorial emergency powers to quickly legalise online gambling so that sites can get up and running as soon as possible. 

Executive director of the Poker Players’ Alliance John Pappas said in the face of closures like this, it underscores the need for the industry to also have an e-commerce platform.  

Head of commercial development at 888 Holdings, Yaniv Sherman said he thinks “big” casino operators who recently expressed their reluctance to him about online gambling will soon change their tune. 

“The gaming industry is coming out on the other side a completely changed industry from where they are right now,” he added. 

Not everyone is on board with the swift legalisation of internet gaming. 

“To use emergency powers to legalise something that has known harm for a portion of its users would be incredibly bad policy,” executive director of National Council on Problem Gambling Keith Whyte said.  

Whyte wants any possible gambling legalisation to be debated and to go through the proper legislative process. 

He expressed concern about giving people easy access to gambling, particularly as they spend more time at home. 

The gambling industry in the United States has historically encouraged regulation and Pappas said the current situation would be no different. 

As Americans have access to legal, regulated gaming options, they will be less likely to gamble at offshore sites with no state or federal government oversight. 

Casinos close their doors 

Almost every casino in the United States has closed because of coronavirus. 

The Las Vegas Review Journal pegs the number at 910 closures, or 92 per cent of the nation’s casinos. 

According to the American Gaming Association, 642,000 people are affected by the shutdown, most of them casino employees. 

Most would not be directly helped by rapid online gambling legalisation and the launch of gaming sites, but it is possible some could be hired. 

If sits do go live and provide some revenue to casinos, that could potentially give them more resources to hire people back once the casinos reopen or provide benefits during furloughs. 

Most of the gambling establishments that remain open are on tribal land. 

The few commercial casinos that are still operating are in South Dakota and Florida. 

NZ casinos take action against coronavirus 

Casinos across New Zealand have taken action over concerns about the spread of coronavirus, including shutting down a number of games and ramping up cleaning procedures. 

Stuff NZ reports that venues in Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown have made a number of changes to operations around the time Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced large gatherings should be abandoned. 

Ardern said gatherings of 500 or more people should be cancelled to try to prevent the community spread of coronavirus. 

The chief executive of SkyCity Entertainment Group, which owns three casinos across New Zealand said that SkyCity was able to control the number of people at its venues. 

“Our business is similar to a shopping centre in that we have a number of smaller venues within a larger precinct,” Graeme Stephens said. 

“In the case of SkyCity, we can control the decisions for each venue across the entire precinct.” 

The main changes include player numbers at tables being reduced to five, some machines being turned off to ensure a safe distance between people, a ramp-up of cleaning services and an increase in hand sanitisers for staff and guests. 

The Tour de Force, where New Zealand military and emergency response teams run up 1103 steps to the top of the Sky Tower has also been cancelled. 

Christchurch Casino hasn’t closed any games or reduced table numbers, but has increased cleaning frequency and added more hand sanitiser stations. 

In a statement, chief executive Brett Anderson said the most important thing is for customers who are experiencing flu-like symptoms to stay away from the casino. 

Dunedin Casino has also increased its cleaning as well as cutting all food service to the slot machines. 

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