Thursday, June 7, 2001 | 11:25 a.m.
Sheldon Adelson may be a big player in cyberspace if and when Internet gambling is legalized.
Adelson, owner of the Las Vegas Strip's Venetian megaresort and the attached Sands Expo Center, said Wednesday he is pleased that the Nevada Legislature has taken the lead in regulating Internet casinos and that he expects Gov. Kenny Guinn to sign legislation approved in an 11th hour Senate session wrapped up earlier this week.
Under the legislation, the Nevada Gaming Commission would be permitted to draft regulations to allow licensees to accept wagers through an interactive system.
"Our hat will be in that ring," Adelson said of controversial efforts to offer people the means to gamble from their computers. "But I don't believe the U.S. Congress or the current administration is very anxious to make it happen."
He offered no specific details of how or when his company would step up efforts in Internet gambling. Other companies have online demonstration games with no actual wagering and a number of name-brand casinos have an Internet presence that include casino games for fun.
Besides being profitable as standalone operations, Internet casinos are seen by some as tools that could be used to attract gamblers to existing Nevada casinos. Adelson didn't address whether he'd market the Venetian with an online casino.
In the meantime about 1,400 Internet casinos based in foreign countries already are available to computer users who know how to find them.
Nevada lawmakers approved the legislation believing that existing federal regulations are subject to legal challenges.
Adelson said the ultimate acceptance of Internet casinos may rest with the realization that billions of dollars are leaving the United States as gamblers play online casinos located offshore.
He said gaming industry professionals were slow to accept legalized gambling in Atlantic City, on riverboats in the Midwest and South and on Indian reservations. But eventually, he said, they accepted and profited from the new venues and he feels the foray into cyberspace will be no different.
"When the industry first fought Atlantic City, I felt that a rising tide would raise all boats and we (Las Vegas) would get our share," Adelson said. "If more people accepted gaming, we'd also do well here."
Now, he said, the question is whether the federal government will allow gambling over a communications network. Nevada's decision to explore the regulation of Internet casinos was an important first step in that direction, he said.
"If this is going to happen, we want people who know what they're doing controlling it," he said. "This keeps the Nevada regulatory climate on the leading edge. I applaud the gaming authorities in their efforts."