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MGM Mirage Launches On-Line Casino

by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, New York

04 October 2002


Just two days after the US House of Representatives passed HR 556, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act of 2002, which would make it illegal to use credit cards or any form of electronic payment for illegal gambling, Las Vegas resort operator MGM Mirage has launched an online casino by virtue of its Isle of Man license.

The site offers slots, roulette and animated card games including poker and blackjack. There's also baccarat, craps, bingo and keno. Each pops up in a separate window and allows gambling without software downloads.

In deference to the attitude of the US Justice Department and lack of clarity in US laws, the site (www.playmgmmirage.com) is open to all for free play, but permits gambling with actual money only to the residents of six countries which permit gambling: the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand.

MGM Mirage has more to risk than most offshore gambling operators (dubbed 'crooks' by US Representative Joseph Pitts this week), with its extensive US casino interests. But MGM's site is a honeycomb of software systems aimed at detecting under-age and residency problems.

MGB has 12 casinos in Nevada, and will file quarterly reports filed by the company about the site with regulators; any violation of US laws could jeopardize the company's state gambling licenses.

MGB is joining an industry (offshore gambling) reckoned to have nearly 2,000 sites and a turnover which will exceed US$5bn by 2005. The Interactive Gaming Council, which represents mostly smaller gambling sites, says it hopes that some larger countries will legislate to allow on-line gambling, offshore or otherwise. Says Keith Furlong, deputy director: "The challenge right now is to find one or two major states or countries that will step in with sensible regulation."

A comprehensive report on the online gambling situation in a number of offshore jurisdictions is available in the Tax-News Reports shop at http://www.tax-news.com/reportshop/

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