Murren An 'Advocate Of Legalizing, Regulating, Taxing' iGaming
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MGM CEO Makes Strong Call For Online Gambling Regulation; Calls Ban ‘Ridiculous’

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MGM Resorts CEO Jim Murren made the strongest pitch yet from the Nevada casino industry for overarching regulation of online gambling, calling efforts to ban iGaming “ridiculous.”

What Murren said about online gambling

Murren’s comments came via an interview with News3LV in Las Vegas, in which he touched on a number of subjects. (Murren’s remarks start at about the 4:30 mark of part 2.)

At the end, the interviewer broached the subject of online gambling; Murren spent more than four minutes talking about the issue, sometimes passionately.

Loosely referencing the Sheldon Adelson-backed effort to ban online gambling at the federal level — the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — Murren once again dismissed the idea that prohibition is an effective way to deal with the issue:

“People are gambling illegally online — Americans — right now,” Murren said. “We don’t know how old they are, we don’t if they can afford to do it, we don’t know where they are. We don’t know if they are actually going to get paid if they win something. We don’t know anything. And to think we can just ban this and that the problem goes away is ridiculous, it flies in the face of common sense. So what I think we should do is regulate it, bring it out in the open.

This isn’t the first time Murren has addressed the issue, but he seemed to advance his position to more actively calling for regulation.

“All banning will do is put this further underground and not solve the problem,” Murren offered. “And that’s why I am an advocate of legalizing, regulating, taxing and holding companies accountable to outcomes, just as we are in the brick-and-mortar business.”

Daily fantasy sports in the crosshairs, too

The industry of daily fantasy sports didn’t escape Murren’s comments on online gambling. He directly called out the two largest DFS operators — FanDuel and DraftKings:

“But who in the world thinks that FanDuel or DraftKings — who’s going to tell me that’s not gambling?” Murren asked. “Of course it’s gambling. But people are doing it, they are doing it all over the place. It’s not regulated.”

The timing of Murren’s comments are interesting as Nevada is currently closely looking at DFS, with the possibility that the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s “legal analysis” could deem that some daily fantasy sports should be covered by the state’s gaming statutes.

A report from the American Gaming Association on sports betting and DFS is also due out in November, which could have an adverse affect on DFS’ status as an unregulated, non-gambling activity.

Transcript of Murren’s online gaming statements

Here is a partial transcript of the most relevant comments Murren made regarding online gaming and fantasy sports:

It’s incredible to me that we have this discussion, it really is. It’s more incredible to my 20-year-old, who is going to be 21 soon, or my 17-year-old that live on their smart devices, that wouldn’t consider doing anything — they wouldn’t book a room, they wouldn’t check out anything — without checking their smart devices. We know where the world is going from a social media perspective, from a social gaming perspective.

We also know that the experiences we create here in Las Vegas cannot be replicated on an iPhone, or on an iPad, or on a laptop, or on a home computer, and we shouldn’t be intimidated by that.

What we should be worried about is our reputation. As gaming operators we are privileged license holders. If something bad happens in the world of gaming, it affects all of us. And today bad things are happening. People are gambling illegally online — Americans — right now.

We don’t know how old they are, we don’t if they can afford to do it, we don’t know where they are. We don’t know if they are actually going to get paid if they win something. We don’t know anything. And to think we can just ban this and that the problem goes away is ridiculous, it flies in the face of common sense.

So what I think we should do is regulate it, bring it out in the open. Make sure we know exactly how old you are, make sure you have the funds available, make sure that you have resources available to you if you have an issue. And make sure that the counterparties are reputable, that will hold up to their end of the bargain.

“But who in the world thinks that FanDuel or DraftKings — who’s going to tell me that’s not gambling? Of course it’s gambling. But people are doing it, they are doing it all over the place. It’s not regulated.”

So we have to very thoughtfully and just be honest with ourselves, the world wants these kinds of products. They want to gamble on fantasy football, they want to play internet poker…I’m cool with that, they should be able to do that. I am not ‘Mr. Moral’ that I am supposed to impose my morals on somebody else. What I am is someone that is highly concerned that illegal activity is being undertaken today that is hurting all of us.

So if it’s completely banned, which some of my operators are proposing that right now, it’s not going to hurt us. Because people are still going to come here to Bellagio. It’s a missed opportunity, but it’s a false promise. And that’s my only point: You can ban it, but it’s not going to go away, it’s going to go further underground, it’s going to be more dangerous to people that gamble, and we have not solved what should be the biggest issue, which is to make sure that commercial activity is regulated and is done in an ethical manner that the most vulnerable of us cannot be hurt.

All banning will do is put this further underground and not solve the problem. And that’s why I am an advocate of legalizing, regulating, taxing and holding companies accountable to outcomes, just as we are in the brick-and-mortar business.

Photo by Matt used under license CC BY 2.0.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.