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Casinos Second act for the Catskills

The Catskills may be about to change their image from mambo lessons and stand-up comics to blackjack and croupiers.

Plans to bring casino gambling to this faded resort area took a big step forward last week, raising hopes that the Catskills are finally on the verge of recapturing some of the excitement of their “Borscht Belt” past.

“Now that gambling will come, all this will be revived,” Elaine Streisfeld said from behind the counter of her antiques and bric-a-brac shop. “Big money will be coming to the county.”

The state legislature has authorized Gov. George Pataki to negotiate compacts with Indian tribes for up to three casinos around the Catskill Mountains’ Sullivan and Ulster counties, and another three in the Buffalo area.

Lawmakers had long resisted adding more Indian casinos to the two operating in New York, but that opposition dissolved in light of the state’s financial woes following the September 11 terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.

A number of hurdles remain, and it could be about three years before any cards are ever cut. But the hope is that casinos will bring back the flush days after World War II, when big hotels and bungalows attracted thousands of visitors each summer, largely Jewish families who drove a few hours north from New York City to escape the heat.

Kids swam in the lakes. Adults took in shows by crooners and comedians. Guests stuffed themselves on all-you-can-eat dining, which often included borscht, the cold beet soup that gave the region its nickname.

“I couldn’t keep the customers out of my shop at 11 p.m.!” Streisfeld recalled. “I’d lock the door to keep them out so I could go home.”…

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Betting Online in the Great White North

A new study about online gambling in Canada has just been released, and it doesn’t look like the future is much brighter in the Great White North than it is in the U.S.

Public policy research group, The Canada West Foundation (CWF), notes in Gambling @ Home: Internet Gambling in Canada that gambling is “largely seen by Canadians as a socially acceptable activity.”

Popular support of gambling hasn’t brought Internet wagering to the masses in Canada, however, as the report indicates.

Online gambling in Canada sits in a bit of a netherworld, and that has contributed to its current ambiguity. Gambling operations and lotteries are managed by the provinces, which are themselves overseen in this area by the federal government and a series of very strict laws.

Betting on the Internet is not expressly forbidden in Canada, but operators need a license from the provincial government to accept wagers. And the provincial government is not issuing online wagering licenses, thus effectively making it illegal.

Because of these legal hurdles, the report says that the actual practice of gambling online is not much of a growth industry in Canada. One other major stumbling block is the fact that single-event sport betting, which is currently one of the most popular forms of online wagering, is also prohibited under current legislation.

According to the report, provincial governments have four possible courses of action with regard to Internet wagering: licensing, operating, prohibiting, or maintaining the status quo. Several costs/benefits scenarios are outlined in the report, with the social and financial ramifications of online gambling figuring prominently.

The CWF believes online casino licensing opportunities would benefit Native and community groups, and would prevent Canadian money from going offshore. But it also suggests that the expansion of online gambling in Canada could lead to an increase in problem gambling and diminished provincial lottery revenue.

Although maintaining the status quo appears to be of little interest to gambling companies (many of which are Canadian and are doing quite well on the international stage), the report seems to suggest that there is little harm in staying the course because so few Canadians actively bet online.

Unfortunately, this conclusion is somewhat flawed. The industry has grown substantially since this data was collected, and it is highly likely that the number of Canadians actively wagering online has grown considerably in recent years.

There are a number of interesting observations in the final pages of the report. The CWF suggests that the absence of provincial involvement or licensing opens the door for money laundering activities, but it also says that “a ‘wait and see’ approach may be the best option for policy makers.”

Perhaps the most significant conclusion of the study, however, is that the provinces will continue to lose money to offshore gambling sites regardless of what they do. That trend will likely continue until the major Nevada casinos go online.

The CWF expects that the proliferation of offshore sites will likely lead to increased calls for government intervention, but it believes that the Canadian government has a difficult task ahead of it to determine a “course of action on Internet gambling that does the least amount of harm.”…

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Another Casino Invests in The Net

An anonymous land-based casino is utilising the skills of Boss Media to develop an Internet casino. The unnamed casino will become another name in the long list of land based companies who are opening gaming sites online when they finally reveal themselves.

The online casino is due to be opened in Autumn of this year and will be “designed to appeal to international players of many jurisdictions and cultures.”

“We are very pleased to announce this new contract in the market. We know that our new customer will penetrate new markets,” said Johan Sigvardsson, CEO and President of Boss Media. “Our new licensee has a lot of experience to bring to the online gaming market.”…

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8 Year-Old Girl Gives Lottery Win to Needy

“A miniature philanthropist in Mary Janes walked into the Port St. Lucie Police Department Wednesday, clutching a plastic change purse stuffed with $777 in cash.

”After winning the money from a Florida Lottery scratch-off ticket this month, 8-year-old Kelly Bateman decided she would give it all to Operation Blue Angels. It’s a police-affiliated group that buys toys, dinners and emergency supplies for needy families in Port St. Lucie.

”…The girl’s mother, Robyn Bateman, said her family buys 10 lottery tickets each Tuesday, two each for her, her husband and three children.

”…Florida lottery rules do not allow children under 18 to buy tickets, but they may collect their winnings through a parent or guardian if they receive the tickets as a gift.…

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Another Attempt to Ban Online Gambling

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Sen John Kyl appeared in Washington to propose a law that would ban online gambling outright.

Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Kyl (R-Ariz.) have been two of the industry’s leading foes, bringing similar legislation to the table several times over in recent years, but have yet to see any of their legislation passed.

However, that hasn’t prevented their crusade to restrict American residents from gambling on the Internet.

The pair were two witnesses which appeared before the House Financial Services subcommittee on financial institutions Tuesday.

Goodlatte said that the industry is unregulated, untaxed, illegal and offshore, and that legislation is needed to address the “problem.”

They were supporting Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, and John LaFalce, D-N.Y., who previously suggested eliminating online casinos’ ability to collect bets through credit cards, or any other form of transfer. The group has joined forces and are presenting their bills as a “package deal”, in the hopes that a common presentation will be more readily accepted in Washington.

Credit card companies have attempted to block the use of cards at online casinos, but the industry has discovered ways around the ploy, by using masking services, such as PayPal and E-Cash. Using those services eliminates the casino’s name from the credit card statement and makes it appear to come from another retail source.…

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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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