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Justin Timberlake, unlikely casino industry spokesman

Gambling chips.

"Runner Runner" stars Justin Timberlake as a grad student caught up in Ben Affleck’s nefarious online poker operation. How nefarious? At one point, Affleck shoves Timberlake into a pool of hungry crocodiles. 

The trade group the Gaming Association has launched a campaign around the movie to jumpstart something it’s been pushing for years: federal regulations for online poker.

The Association’s director, Geoff Freeman, says that even though online gambling is illegal in the U.S., it’s a $3 billion industry.

"It’s here," Freeman says. "The question is, are we going to regulate it and create the right framework for this, or are we going to allow the black market to thrive."

But Freeman’s true opponents aren’t handsome, crocodile-owning thugs, says Richard McGowan, a professor at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management.  

The opponents are actually -- wait for it -- state governments. "If I’m a state governor or a state treasurer, I am not amused by the thought of federal regulation here," says McGowan.

Because in that case, the feds would collect taxes and fees, and the states would face more competition for their own gambling franchises -- lotteries.

About the author

Dan is a sustainability reporter for Marketplace.
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