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Obama to take free market approach to state, Internet gambling, association predicts
By Gene Koprowski
The American Gaming Association (AGA) expects that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama will adopt laissez-faire, or anything goes, approach to gambling expansion when he takes office in two months, something of a contrast to his reported plans for the rest of the U.S. economy.
"I don't see any major fears for the gaming industry from the Obama administration," said AGA president and CEO Frank Fahrenkopf, Jr., noting the president-elect has a history of embracing a "state's rights" approach to gambling regulation and taxation. "Congress is likely to expand the scope of legalized, national Internet gambling next year, and one possibility is a 'carve out,' or exemption, for Internet poker."
The Bush White House recently formalized regulations that limit online gambling in the U.S., but Obama is expected to repeal these rules once he is in power, according to experts.
Fahrenkopf said he expects industry sales to grow, on a company by company basis, during the New Year, but he thinks river boat casinos will see sales grow faster than resort destinations, like Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
"You can't look at the gaming industry as a monolithic market," he said.
Riverboat markets and other drive-to markets, like Kansas City, are doing better than fly-to resort destinations like Las Vegas, he said.
Some markets are recovering from hurricanes while others are coping with the challenges of new competition or smoking prohibitions.
Third-quarter numbers in the nation's 12 commercial casino gambling states totaled $8.4 billion, Fahrenkopf said.
He said that he sees some consolidation in the industry. For example, Penn National Gaming, owner of the Argosy Riverside Casino, is cash rich from a settlement of its own recent failed merger and is shopping for expansion partners.
Fahrenkopf noted a recent news reports that suggest the gaming industry employs more people than the U.S. auto industry were a positive sign.
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