Well, it’s finally happened. Big name land-based casinos have officially joined the online casino market. Last week, U.K. dependency the Isle of Man granted online casino licenses to MGM Mirage (U.S.A.), Sun International Hotels (South Africa), and Littlewoods Leisure (U.K.), and in the process ushered in a new era for the online gaming industry.
These aren’t the first land-based gaming companies to go online, but things are a little different this time. The new licenses offer a higher level of regulation than ever before, and for the first time, a major U.S. gaming company will be offering real-money wagering on the Net.
There are a number of international jurisdictions that currently offer online casino licenses, but they generally employ a less-restrictive set of regulations. That has kept some of the big players on the sidelines, but things appear to be changing with the introduction of the Isle of Man licenses.
Officials there know they’re offering something special. Allan Bell, minister of Home Affairs of the Isle of Man, noted, “We … are in a different league altogether [from] this level of competition [offered in Antigua, etc.] … We are not aware that there are any similar regimes as well regulated anywhere else in the world.”
Regulators have worked diligently to exclude under-age gamblers and players from jurisdictions where online wagering is prohibited, as well as beefing up online security. Players will also have to set betting limits for themselves, and will be unable to bet on credit.
More importantly, each casino will have to keep £2 million (approximately US$3 million) on deposit to ensure that players will get paid if the casino goes out of business. And that kind of player protection is unheard of in other jurisdictions.
These stringent licensing regulations seem to appeal to Online Casino Singapore casinos worried about the side effects of a poorly planned online venture. In a company press release, Terry Lanni, chief executive of MGM Mirage, stated, “We look forward to operating an Internet gaming site from the Isle of Man because its government has chosen to develop proper licensing and regulation.”
But why is MGM Mirage opening an online casino in the U.K. when the state of Nevada – where the company is headquartered – may be offering its own online casino licenses in the not-too-distant future?
The simple answer is because the company doesn’t want to get left behind. MGM already has a play-for-fun casino site at Wagerworks.com, so it’s got its foot in the door. But Nevada licenses may be years in the making, and MGM has to stay on top of things in this growing market.
What’s more, MGM Mirage’s name recognition and an existing online casino presence will be invaluable if Internet wagering ever gets the green light in the U.S. But that doesn’t mean MGM can afford to take a cavalier approach to things.
Any move that is seen to flaunt U.S. Department of Justice regulations concerning online wagering may adversely affect MGM’s position at home. Representatives from MGM, Sun, and Littlewoods have all said that they will move ahead in a deliberate but cautious manner so as not to jeopardize their land-based interests.
Isle of Man licenses aren’t cheap (they cost £80,000), but the casinos will get what they are paying for. And what they’re paying for – in part, at least – is the prestige that will undoubtedly come from an Isle of Man license.
Nine more online casino licenses will be issued in November, and if all goes well, the Isle of Man will likely become a popular choice for industry heavyweights and Vegas strip operators.
All I can say is, it’s about bloody time the big boys got in the game.