Casino-On-Net (CON Casino) Interview

The very power of the Net to find and keep gamblers is one of the reasons that opponents of online casinos want to ban them.

Part 5 - Interview With CON Casino - Casino On Net

"Internet gambling is a danger to family and society at large," Leach says. "It should be ended." To blunt that threat, Anderson says, CON Casino spends more than $500,000 a year on lobbying. He's hired one of Washington's top power brokers, law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, to press Congress and state legislatures. Dan Spiegel, the point man on the campaign, stresses the benefits of a regulated online gaming industry, including the fact that it would mean protection for consumers and tax revenues for badly strapped state treasuries. Still, Spiegel foresees an uphill battle. "This is one of the hardest assignments we've ever faced at the firm," he says.

Meanwhile, Anderson continues to try to prove his point through his own business actions. When Rep. Michael Oxley, R-Ohio, accused online casinos of laundering money for terrorists, Anderson responded by hiring a former FBI computer crime expert to devise internal safeguards and train his staff in detection. (No online casino has ever been charged with money laundering, although the FBI says it is investigating the industry.) He has invited a fact-finding mission of regulators and government critics to Gibraltar to examine everything from his Ernst & Young-audited financial statements to his PricewaterhouseCoopers-certified payout ratio. He has joined a fledgling industry body called eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation Assurance -- modeled on the National Association of Securities Dealers, the stock-market watchdog -- which will give its seal of approval only to operators who meet a long list of tough standards. CON Casino is the first and, so far, only casino to join.

It would seem a lonely crusade with bleak prospects -- except that Anderson is already closing in on one coup. Britain is expected to begin licensing online casinos within a year or two, finally creating an environment for squeaky-clean operators under a regulatory regime that's beyond reproach. Anderson has quietly lobbied for that in Parliament for years, and he has been an adviser to the government on the regulatory structure. "You have to learn about the opposition's concerns and prove to them that they don't exist," Anderson says. "You have to gradually build trust."

The British generally get far less worked up about betting than Americans do, but Anderson is convinced that, in his logical, meticulous way, he can eventually chip away at the mistrust, even among powerful U.S. politicians who see gambling as a sin. He knows gambling isn't for everyone. He himself never bets. But banning it is far more morally troubling, he believes. "It's a freedom of choice issue, like drinking or smoking," he says. "A society where a customer has no choice but to show up and sing the company song, that's communism." And even if CON Casino and Anderson doesn't win, other players will likely take his and CON Casino's place at the table. "You cannot buck a market," Anderson says. "A Luddite attitude will always fail." That, at least, seems a pretty safe bet.

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