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Gilbert May Have Sealed His Own Online Gambling Fate In Ohio

Dan Gilbert is best-known for being the outspoken owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers. Gilbert made national news when he blasted LeBron James for the way the former Cavs star left Cleveland for Miami.

Now, it appears Gilbert's aggressive nature may play against him in business. In 2009, Gilbert pushed successfully for an amendment to the state Constitution that restricted gambling to only the four locations approved by voters, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, and Columbus.

Today, that amendment is the at the center of an online gambling debate in Ohio. As many states start to regulate online gambling, Gilbert figures to be the beneficiary should Ohio decide to go that route. Legal experts, however, believe that the 2009 amendment may prevent Gilbert from accepting bets from anywhere in Ohio outside of the four brick and mortar casinos.

Rock Gaming, Gilbert's gaming company, and Penn National Gaming, hold the rights to the four casinos. Rock owns the Cleveland and Cincinnati casinos, while Penn National operates casinos in Toledo and Columbus.

No matter what the outcome of Internet gambling regulations discussions in the Ohio Legislature, a legal fight may be brewing. I. Nelson Rose, a noted gaming expert and a professor at Whittier Law School in California, believes that Ohio could use the same logic used in New Jersey in circumventing the law.

In New Jersey, lawmakers agreed to regulations that placed the servers for online casinos in Atlantic City casinos. That permitted the online gambling to still be taking place in the permitted areas of the state.

"It's not a guarantee it would work (in Ohio). It has worked in other states," said Rose. "I don't even know if there's been a lot of court cases."

So far in 2013, Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have all passed online gambling regulation laws. Nevada has opened their first online casino, in beta mode, and New Jersey and Delaware are expected to have their first Internet casinos open by the Fall.

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