Hopefully, last month’s i-gaming summit in Toronto will open some people’s eyes to the opportunities that lie in the world of online gambling. And by some people, I mean the Canadian government.

Online gambling is growing faster than ever, but most of that growth is taking place in the Caribbean where the casinos can operate outside of the confines of North American gambling restrictions.

That situation may be changing, however. Nevada has just passed legislation that opens the door for online casinos in the Silver State. But should Nevada be the first – or only – jurisdiction in North America to allow legalized online gambling?

The answer to that question is an emphatic ‘No’. The Americans seem to be unable to reach a consensus on the issue, and that has opened the door for Canada to capitalize on this rapidly growing industry by legalizing and regulating Internet wagering in the Great White North.

Legalized Internet gambling isn’t a new topic for the Canadian government. Toronto-Danforth Member of Parliament Dennis Mills introduced a bill four years ago calling for regulated online gaming. Unfortunately, the bill died when the government refused to take a stand on the issue.

So why should Canada legalize Net betting at this point? Well, there are several reasons.

The most obvious is money. Online gambling was a US$1.5 billion dollar industry last year, and that figure could grow to US$6 billion a year by 2003. That’s $9 billion Canadian dollars at the current exchange rate.

Federal regulation of online gambling, and the taxation that inevitably follows, would mean hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue for the Canadian government. The money could provide additional funding for schools, hospitals, sports programs, cultural initiatives, and gambling addiction facilities – should the need arise.

Then there’s the obvious opportunity for Canada to establish Slot Joker123 itself as a world leader in the e-gaming industry. This would create hundreds of new high tech jobs, generate additional tax revenue, promote secondary spending in the community, and support Canadian gaming software manufacturers such as CryptoLogic, Chartwell Technologies, and Dot Com Entertainment.

Regulated gaming would also protect Canadian citizens from unlicensed, unregulated overseas operations. It would also mean a safer gaming environment for American players, in spite of the fact that they’re not supposed to be gambling online in the first place.

Who benefits from legalized Internet gambling in Canada? Well, just about everyone. The Canadian government gets much-needed revenue, casinos are able to establish themselves as legitimate businesses in a first-world nation, gamblers know the casinos they are playing at are accountable, and Canadian software manufacturers will have clients at their doorsteps.

There have to be losers in the equation, so who loses out if Canada legalizes Net betting? The U.S. federal government will lose potential revenue if it chooses to ban online gambling. Nevada will also have a smaller slice of the pie if it has to compete with Canadian-licensed casinos – assuming its gaming legislation goes into effect.

The real loser, however, will be the offshore, fly-by-night casino operators. Regulated gambling, along with the accountability it brings, will put these companies out of business. What a shame.

Some people have argued that the Canadian government can’t and shouldn’t regulate the Internet. But the issue here is regulating an industry – the online casino business – rather than regulating the Net. The federal and provincial governments already regulate land-based casinos in Canada, and they should regulate online casinos as well.

Internet wagering is a rapidly growing, legitimate business, and it’s high time that the Canadian government capitalizes on that growth. So, Canada, wake up and take control of the online gambling industry by legalizing it – before the opportunity passes you by.