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Canadian Internet Gambling Debate Is Week's Hot Topic

April 30, 2010 (CAP News Wire) – The announcement earlier this week that the Canadian province of Manitoba may implement legalized, regulated Internet gambling to generate tax revenues seems to have triggered a new wave of attention to online gaming in the Canadian media. It’s also been a part of why this week’s Canadian Gaming Summit seems to be giving particular focus to Internet gambling (the industry’s “elephant in the room”, as aptly puts it).

Of course, the issue has been fairly prominent over the past year, anyway, as other provinces such as Quebec and British Columbia debate their own existing or soon-to-be created Internet gambling regulations.

Still, as their counterparts in the U.S. have also done recently, the Canadian media seems to have pounced on the topic of online gambling in the past week. For starters, the Calgary Herald recently ran a major article analyzing the need to regulate Internet casinos and online poker rooms.

That idea came as a result of the a recent gathering called the Canadian Gaming Summit. Normally, this event wouldn’t draw many media headlines. But now, with the online gaming topic getting hotter in North America, it’s getting a fair amount of attention.

“Gambling experts meeting in Calgary this week for the Canadian Gaming Summit at the BMO Centre agreed more and more Canadians are going online to play poker or bet on sports, because it’s fun, easy and convenient,” Eva Ferguson writes in the article.

“But as more Canadians join the trend, industry representatives are concerned players may not be as protected as they could be if operating gaming websites were legal here and more regulations were in place.”

(In Canada, online gambling isn’t illegal, but it is unlawful for companies not licensed in Canada to operate online gambling services to its citizens. Which accounts for a good chunk of Canadian Internet gambling activity, and which is why new Canadian online gambling laws tend to place the provincial governments in charge of running the services.)

Another high-profile online gaming media story was published at the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) website under the headline “Casinos worry as betting goes online”. This article explores one of the major corollaries of the current online gambling debate; namely, that after years of fighting online gambling, land-based casino operators are finally coming to the conclusion that it’s far more profitable (not to mention an economically necessary) to instead join the Internet gambling business themselves.

“Canadians now spend about $1 billion per year gambling online,” the article states. “But since privately owned betting websites are not legal in this country, most of the revenue goes to international companies, according to the Canadian Gaming Association.”

“We as an industry and government and regulators have to come to grips and catch up and bring in a regulatory environment,” Paul Burns, a spokesman for the CGA, was quoted in the article.

“Gaming online is allowed in Canada if the site is operated by a provincial government lottery agency, Burns said. But so far only a few — including the B.C. and Atlantic lottery corporations — have offered web-based services.”

All this activity and attention (and the Canadian Gaming Summit itself) are leading some observers to believe that Canada may implement online gambling regulations before the U.S. (Not that that would be that difficult, given the United States’ extraordinarily slow progress in this area.)