AGA CEO says online poker movie Runner, Runner “not far from reality”

TAGs: American Gaming Association, geoff freeman, Harry Reid, runner runner

aga-runner-runner-online-poker-movieOnline poker movie Runner, Runner had its official premiere Wednesday night at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, ahead of its wide release on Oct. 4. Among those who showed up to walk the red carpet were the film’s stars – Ben Affleck, Justin Timberlake, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie – along with the screenwriting duo of Brian Koppelman and David Levien (of Rounders fame). Timberlake’s fiancée Jessica Biel was also in attendance, with the betrothed ones clad in matching tuxedos. Other than that, the event failed to attract much star power, unless Meatloaf and Carrot Top are your idea of A-listers.

In August, new American Gaming Association CEO Geoff Freeman let it slip that the AGA was planning to “leverage” the movie’s release in order to educate the general public – and politicians with the power to pass federal online poker legislation – as to the inherent dangers of online poker sites that hold a license issued from any jurisdiction not named Nevada.

And ta-daa! Thursday brought a Freeman-penned op-ed for the Las Vegas Review-Journal in which he reviewed the movie’s “harrowing account of a lawless online poker world ruled by shady and unethical characters.” (And crocodiles. Can’t forget the crocodiles.) Freeman admitted the movie wasn’t a documentary, “but sadly, it is not far from reality,” much in the way that Pluto is really not far from Neptune, at least when looking through the Hubble telescope.

Freeman warned that the current state-by-state rollout of online gambling across America was ill equipped to deal with a “borderless internet.” While Freeman name-checked the three states – Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware – that have already passed online gambling legislation, Nevada was singled out as “a leader in developing comprehensive regulations that protect consumers.” Freeman closes by saying online gambling is “here to stay,” but it was “past time” for federal politicians to pass a bloody bill already.

Freeman appears to be the only one who believes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would have any better luck at passing online poker legislation today than his previous attempts. Speaking to PokerNews this week, 888 Holdings CEO Brian Mattingley – whose company is powering Caesars Entertainment’s new Nevada-facing site – said that while “it would be so much easier” for companies like his if there were one national standard for online poker, “I don’t think we’re of the opinion that will happen.” Just last week, former Nevada gaming regulator Mark Lipparelli suggested the window of opportunity for passing a federal bill had “essentially closed.”

But that doesn’t stop Reid from ginning up expectations. Late last month, Reid told NewsReview that talk of interstate compacts between Nevada and New Jersey was premature, given the chance that those states will “get some federal legislation to allow them to [share liquidity] before then.” Pressed for further detail, Reid continued to play coy, saying that interstate compact backers “may not need that in whatever we do here, federally.”

Perhaps the most telling part of Reid’s interview came when he was asked whether he’d discussed his plans with state legislators and/or gaming regulators, to which the answer was an emphatic ‘no’. But Reid has been talking with casino execs, or, more accurately, “not so much the casino executives as people they’ve hired to represent them.” Wouldn’t be the first time a politician has been accused of feigning support for online gambling in order to keep the lobbying taps open.

While Reid appears determined to keep his cards close to his chest, Freeman is set to reveal all at a media briefing at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Freeman will use his pulpit to lay out the AGA’s priorities in the coming years, as well as dropping new data on US online gambling. Freeman’s op-ed contained a hint of these stats courtesy of H2 Gambling Capital, which said US gamblers spend $2.6b annually with international online gambling sites, around 8% of the $33b global online market.

It would seem that despite Freeman’s depiction of the reptilian horrors of transacting with international online gambling sites, not to mention the significant obstacles put in place by the US Department of Justice, American consumers have become quite enamored with gambling online. Guess they picked up these habits during the long period in which the vast majority of the AGA membership was doing everything in their power to prevent online gambling legislation from passing. Ironic, that.


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