Colorado explores online gambling

DENVER — Over the past two decades, as the Internet and technology boom altered how other brick-and-mortar businesses operated, the U.S. casino industry continued to generate virtually all of its gaming revenue offline.

That’s now changing state-by-state, and a domino effect is expected to soon take hold.

This year, three states legalized some form of online gambling within their borders, with New Jersey recently joining Nevada and Delaware to allow live Internet-based casinos.

Quietly, Colorado lawmakers and industry officials drafted legislation late last session to authorize Internet poker. Though that effort stalled, the industry says it will continue to explore the issue, with another push possible in 2014.

“This is something we are monitoring very closely,” said Troy Stremming, executive vice president of government relations for Pinnacle Entertainment, owner of Colorado’s largest casino, Ameristar Black Hawk.

“Internet gaming continues to evolve state-by-state, and through ever-changing technology,” Stremming said. “With respect to Colorado, when there is a piece of legislation to review, we can make decisions based on whether or not participation will be beneficial to the company.”

On the smartphone side, gambling giant MGM Resorts International last month released the first casino mobile app to offer real comps and rewards, such as free rooms and buffets, for gambling with play chips. The rewards are redeemable at 11 brick-and-mortar casinos in Las Vegas, such as Bellagio and the Mirage.

If there’s any question about the appetite for such games, look no further than the results of MGM’s app, called myVegas, since it appeared in the Google Play and Apple App stores.

“The mobile launch has exceeded everyone’s expectations. We’re in the millions of downloads now,” said Josh Swissman, vice president of corporate marketing for MGM. “Just a few weeks ago, it was the No. 1 casino application in the iTunes App store. It was the No. 8 overall game application. And we got it as high as No. 14 for all apps overall in the entire iTunes app ecosystem.”

Many of those downloads came from residents of Colorado, a significant feeder market for Las Vegas-based casinos. MGM has a joint marketing agreement with Ameristar Black Hawk, sending Colorado gamblers offers and rewards based on their player up the hill.

“It’s a big market for us,” said Swissman, though he didn’t have specific figures.

Developed by PlayStudios, the myVegas app combines traditional slot machine play with elements of social gaming that Zynga made popular on Facebook.

PlayStudios CEO Andrew Pascal said the app’s technology platform can easily convert to the technical standards required for real money gambling, but that’s not in the cards for the company.

Because it doesn’t accept real money bets, the myVegas game is played worldwide.

Online gambling in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware is limited to players who are physically within the respective state’s borders.

Nevada has authorized Internet poker, while New Jersey and Delaware permit other online casino games such as slots.


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