Nevada rolls the dice on online gambling
Europe may be debating how best to manage online betting and gambling companies and their profits, but – in what will hardly come as a shock to anyone who has ever shaken hands with a one-armed bandit or played cards in Las Vegas – the state of Nevada was delighted last week to become the first US state to legalise online gambling.
State officials were thrilled to get in ahead of potential competitor New Jersey, after the Nevada state legislature actually went into emergency overdrive, rushing a Bill through both houses in a single day with little opposition.
Governor Brian Sandoval went so far as to proclaim it “an historic day for the great state of Nevada”, noting the legislation will “usher in the next frontier of gambling in Nevada”.
Before anyone can set up shop, the state still needs to work out how such companies will be regulated. Sandoval indicated that the new legislation would enable Nevada to “continue to be the gold standard for gaming regulation”. If that concept intrigues, it might help to know that Sandoval was formerly the chairman of Nevada’s Gaming Commission.
If you are wondering how online gambling – which many will recall was prohibited in the US – now is to be allowed, it’s because the US department of justice cleared the way back in 2011, issuing a clarifying letter that stated that a 1961 Act often used to try to control online gambling only applied to sports betting.
The new Nevada law, which was yesterday followed by similarly pro-online gambling legislation in New Jersey, will be of interest not just to established online gambling firms, but online gaming companies too, who are looking for fresh revenue sources. Many of them know all too well that the average punter might be obsessed with Farmville this week but will disappointingly rush off into the arms of some other time-obliterating online game fling the next.
Zynga, which has its European headquarters in Dublin, is already rolling out online gambling sites for poker and other casino games in the UK, to go live in June. Not only does it plan for standalone sites – the company said earlier this month in a conference call that it also intends to make gambling available through Facebook too.
If Zynga, whose shares have been less than stellar since an initial public offering a little over a year ago, finds Lady Luck likes its new strategy, some downmarket neighbourhoods in San Francisco are likely to benefit.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle last Saturday, it is well-paid techies that are gently gentrifying some bleaker areas of the city, people from companies (like Zynga) located in some of the city’s seedier districts, or from larger Valley stalwarts such as Google, which provides free bus services between bohemian San Francisco and company offices in less exciting Mountain View.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg – whose residency choices seem these days to be the trendiness benchmark for a neighbourhood – has even bought a place in the city’s Mission District, apparently not content with sticking to his Palo Alto digs.
The Mission started to transform around the time of the dotcom boom, when the formerly no-go area south of the city’s Market Street (SoMa), which borders on the lower end of the Mission, began to appeal to online start-ups and web developers. In the next decade, interesting restaurants colonised funky buildings – always the sign of a neighbourhood rebirth in food-obsessed San Francisco.
Yet in this famously liberal city, to which I have happily returned this week for a technology conference, “gentrification” always has some negative connotations. Yes, it’s nice to see buildings and services improve and crime rates fall, and to say farewell to what a friend in a less salubrious city area used to call “disaffected urban youth”, menacing passersby on street corners.
But San Francisco, in general, thoroughly enjoys its ethnic, cultural and social mix, values its unique and varied neighbourhoods, and doesn’t want it yuppified.
Thankfully, the good fortunes of various homegrown and outlying technology companies, with flush employees that value San Francisco’s quirkiness, mean neighbourhoods benefit from their presence (and cash) – without “gentrifying” too much in the wrong way.