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M Resort's Marnell says he opposes Internet poker legalization

6 Jan 2012

By Howard Stutz
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- M Resort President Anthony Marnell III said he opposed the legalization of online poker during a recent interview with a statewide public affairs television program.

Marnell became the second gaming industry executive to come out against the current efforts to legalize Internet poker, echoing similar comments made last month by Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson.

"I agree with him 100 percent, we're pushing this way too far," Marnell said during a segment of Nevada Newsmakers, which aired Dec. 28.

Marnell told interviewer Sam Shad his opinion was his own and weren't those of his employer, Penn National Gaming, which took control of M Resort last June. The regional casino operator gained ownership of the 390-room hotel casino after purchasing the property's debt at a 75 percent discount.

Marnell appeared on the program to discuss M Resort and the Las Vegas gaming market. When asked about Internet poker legalization, Marnell said he was concerned the activity could lead to problem gaming and gambling by minors.

"I just can't see a scenario where you can truly secure that from young children," Marnell said. "Once it becomes legalized, it's taking it too far. I think you start to create addictive behaviors in the home that we can't see as operators. We have problem gambling initiatives on the casino floor."

Marnell's views differ from the bulk of the gaming industry. Companies such as Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, as well as the Washington, D.C- based American Gaming Association, have encouraged Congress to legalize Internet poker.

Several casino companies have agreements in place with European online gaming operators to start up American based online poker entities that cater to U.S. residents if the activity is legalized.

"That's just my take on it," Marnell said. "I know I'm not in the favor of the gaming industry perspective. I just think enough is enough. We don't need to push this farther into the home."

Based on the history of gaming expansion, Marnell thought the current push wouldn't end at online poker. If one gambling game were approved, other gaming activities would gain approval.

"It starts off as a bingo room then it becomes a full blown Las Vegas casino," Marnell said. "All it takes is time money and legislation. My opinion is online poker won't be the end of this. It will just be the beginning."

Marnell thought the legalization of online poker was being proposed because states and the federal government have large budget deficits. He said lawmakers need to control spending and cost structures before creating new revenue streams.

"I guess I'm trying to figure out where we are going with this long term," Marnell said. "Are we using this as method to pay a bunch of bills because the states don't have enough money?

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