Mr Adelson’s group has corralled support from 16 state attorneys-general opposed to online gambling
expansion. It is circulating FBI memos warning that internet casinos can be used by terrorists and
criminal syndicates to launder money.
Before the late 1980s, most forms of gambling had been prohibited in the US outside Nevada and New
Jersey. But the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 changed that by allowing Indian tribes to
operate casinos on reservations for their own benefit.
Cash-strapped states subsequently authorised slot parlours and small casinos, and by the late 2000s,
states were fiercely competing for gambling revenues by building larger and more elaborate casinos.
In 2014, 22 states will operate commercial or racetrack casinos, while 28 states host tribal casinos.
The AGA had previously been split on the question of internet gambling – primarily due to Las Vegas
Sands’ presence on its board. But under Mr Freeman, who took over the group in mid-2013, it now
contends that online play is the next logical outgrowth of the industry’s development.
Pointing to the fact that Americans are already gambling online through offshore sites to the tune of
$3bn a year, the AGA is advocating for federal legalisation and regulation to protect consumers and
recapture lost revenues. It says Europe is an example of how online gambling can be regulated and
The AGA has retained its own team of heavy-hitters including political strategist Jim Messina, who
helped mastermind President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election and is a part-time elections adviser to
David Cameron’s Conservative party. Known for his use of data and social media-driven messaging,
Mr Messina could be influential in winning over voters and legislators.
Other states’ appetite to consider online gambling legislation may depend on the experience of recent
converts. New Jersey reaped a meagre $8.4m in online gambling revenue after launching in late 2013.
The figure was much worse than Governor Chris Christie and most analysts had expected, and
industry observers and advocates will be keen to see if a parallel market of online gamers emerges or if
the games cannibalise bricks-and-mortar casinos’ revenues.
While Europe’s online and traditional casino markets have managed to coexist, the abundance of
casinos in the US compared with Europe means that there are few international precedents to help
predict who will win the high-stakes battle for the industry’s future.