092413 CJOS_Rymax_Geoff Freeman_300The American Gaming Association (AGA) is using the new major motion picture film, Runner, Runner, which portrays the dark side of the illegal online poker business, as a way to highlight the need for a federal solution for what it says is already a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S.

Speaking at the opening session of the iGaming Congress at G2E yesterday, Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the AGA, said the association will release data today showing that Americans spent nearly $3 billion on online gaming in 2012, “despite the fact that the U.S. government is doing everything it could to shut it down.”

Freeman pointed to live online gaming in Nevada and the prospect of Delaware and New Jersey coming online by the end of 2013 as evidence that online gaming is already here, “the question is are we going to regulate this in an effective manner or are we going to let this go on in the way that it’s currently going on.”

The AGA has long supported a federal approach to this issue, for three reasons, Freeman said.
“One, we need minimum standards, on age verification, consumer protection and responsible gaming. Two, we need a framework for Native American tribes to engage. And three, we need to give law enforcement the tools they need to keep bad actors out of the American marketplace, and the federal government is best positioned to put these standards in place.

“But, make no mistake; if the federal government does not step in, our companies are prepared to participate at the state level. Increasingly, that looks like the most likely outcome here. We’re prepared to engage, and the American Gaming Association will be active in putting forward what we believe to be an effective regulatory framework, and we will be engaging around the country.”

A state-by-state rollout of online gaming is generally seen as the most likely scenario in the States. Panelists agreed with James Kilby, Americas editor, GamingCompliance.com, who said the current level of partisan acrimony and dysfunction in Washington is making it difficult for any legislation to pass, “particularly for a fairly controversial and not exactly the most nationally significant topic like online poker. The other thing I would say is the retirement of Senator Kyl, who was a strong Republican conservative proponent of online poker legislation, is a big loss.”