Sands CEO explains Adelson's position on web poker; MGM Resorts boss warns of companies becoming the "Borders of gaming"

MGM Resorts International chief Jim Murren and Las Vegas Sands CEO Michael Leven sharply disagreed Wednesday on whether to allow the federal government to regulate Internet gaming.

During a panel discussion on the state of the industry at the G2E Expo, Leven elaborated on the company’s – and his boss, Sheldon Adelson’s – position on web poker. Leven said there were three reasons that the company has concerns:

----Predictability of revenue. He suggested some cannibalism might occur.

----Leven said nearly all college kids would become web gamblers.

----The impact on bricks and mortar casinos is unclear.

Leven chafed at the idea of a federal government presence: "We have concerns about any bill that's going to add more people to the federal government," Leven said, as reported by Ken Ritter of the AP. "I'm a state's rights guy. We don't like to see the government getting any bigger."

Murren said he backed “a federal solution.” Ritter also quoted him in his piece as saying federal regulation would bring” consistency ... instead of a patchwork of regulations state-by-state that we as operators and potential participants, and customers, will have to navigate through."

The hour-long discussion at the Sands Expo by the six gaming executives also included IGT CEO Patti Hart, Spielo International CEO Walter Bugno, Bally Technologies CEO Dick Hadrill and WMS Chairman Brian Gamache. I was the moderator.

The sextet generally were optimistic about the industry’s future, especially in Macau. Hart talked about the ability of the gamers to “reinvent” themselves with changing market conditions and technology. Most talked about the inevitability of web gaming, with Hadrill saying companies need to adapt to “toggle back and forth” between land-based and cyberspace gambling. Bugno said Europe already is much more sophisticated about online gambling with poker much less important than other games.

Murren was the most sober in his assessment of conditions, saying Las Vegas is coming back slowly, but he described the industry as very vulnerable, said “we can’t stick our heads in the sand” (I don’t think that was a shot at the rival company!), lest the companies become “the Borders of gaming.”

Ritter's account is here.