Even a Former Governor Endorses Online Gaming

by Lou on November 16, 2005

Now it’s not just poker players who are endorsing online gaming sites, even former elected public official and hall of fame quarterbacks are getting in on the act. The following is an edited version of an article that appeared in today ‘s New York Times.

By MATT RICHTEL, The New York Times

(Nov. 16) — Jesse Ventura is no longer governor of Minnesota. But he is still pushing an agenda – in this case, sports betting over the Internet.

Mr. Ventura is the new spokesman for BetUS.com, a Web site operated from Costa Rica that lets people wager on sports contests from their home computers. “This is a step toward bringing something above- board that clearly many people want to partake in,” Mr. Ventura said.

In a sign of an increased acceptance of Internet gambling, online casinos in recent months have signed endorsement deals with a group of celebrities, including Tom Arnold, the actor; Brooke Burke, a model turned television host; and Jim Kelly, a former quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.

But there is a big potential catch: these stars and others who profit by promoting offshore casinos could be putting themselves in legal jeopardy. The government considers these Internet sports books to be violating American law by providing unlicensed gambling on domestic shores. Further, the government has said in the past that it could prosecute Americans who promote and assist such foreign operations for effectively aiding and abetting their illegal activities.

“There’s a good chance they are criminally liable for the crime itself,” said I. Nelson Rose, a professor at Whittier Law School in California and the author of “The Law of Internet Gaming.” For celebrities who draw attention from law enforcement officials, he said, “the downside danger is enormous.”

The Justice Department declined to comment for this article.

Internet gambling is projected to reach almost $12 billion in business this year, up from $8.3 billion in 2004, according to Sebastian Sinclair, a gambling industry analyst with Christiansen Capital Advisors. Americans account for more than half of the amount wagered, Internet casino executives and industry analysts say. The popularity has soared in recent years with the boom in poker, particularly Texas Hold ‘Em, and its increasing prominence on cable television. Still, the industry insists that online gambling would be much larger were it not for efforts by federal prosecutors and some financial institutions.

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