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Analysts Cyber Casinos Alluring for Nevada

There won’t be any buffets and showgirls in cyber casinos. Nevertheless, gambling analysts predicted Wednesday that if Nevada casinos set up shop on the Web, they’ll not only draw players to the sites, but more visitors than ever will want to come to the old-fashioned ones, too.

“Internet gaming tends to be a very profitable business,” Marc Falcone, analyst for Bear Stearns, told the state gaming commission. “We think this is a big opportunity.”

Because of a recent bill approved by state lawmakers, the commission is trying to develop rules to let Nevada casino operators set up Web-based gambling sites.

Estimated revenues from Internet gambling reached $1.5 billion last year, but that’s a tiny amount compared to its potential. Sebastian Sinclair, gambling analyst for Christiansen Capital Advisors, estimated revenues could reach $10 billion by 2005.

Nevada obviously doesn’t want to be left out of that, but the legality of Internet gambling is holding casinos back.

The U.S. Justice Department has considered Internet gambling to be illegal from within the United States because of a 40-year-old federal law banning betting on the telephone.

Despite that, Nevada lawmakers believe the legalization of online betting is inevitable, especially if federal restrictions are changed by pending court challenges, including one in Louisiana.

But what would cyber casinos do to Nevada’s economy? Outgoing commission Chairman Brian Sandoval wanted to know if the Web would cannibalize land casinos.

Falcone was adamant that Web casinos would only help Nevada, much like book stores or clothing stores who sell both in brick-and-mortar locations and on the Web.

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