Playboy Enterprises Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Viacom Inc. have already placed their bets on Internet gambling beating out established gambling giants like Park Place Entertainment and Harrah’s Entertainment .

Those companies have already established virtual casinos outside the U.S., where Internet gambling isn’t prohibited.

 

That means Las Vegas-based casino corporations have a tight window to get in on the game before losing out to more nongambling companies, industry experts said Thursday at the first Interactive Gaming Exposition and Conference.

 

“Internet gambling is inevitable. It’s here. If you think time is on your side, it’s not,” said Sebastian Sinclair, gambling industry analyst and vice president of Christensen Capitol Advisors. “The next 12 months are it. If you don’t, other companies will come to dominate this market.”

 

Lawmakers in June approved a bill enabling Nevada to become the first state in the nation to offer Internet gambling. Federal law currently bars Internet gambling, but state officials say court challenges could change the federal government’s position.

 

Casino executives are meeting with technology developers of proposed online casinos, Nevada gambling regulators and Wall Street analysts to discuss the future of Internet gambling. The conference at the Bellagio hotel-casino ends Friday.

 

Playboy Enterprises Chairwoman and Chief Executive Christie Hefner said Playboy Online, a subsidiary of Playboy Enterprises, is part-owner of a number of online wagering businesses that she said have caught on quickly with Playboy’s 4.4 million monthly Web site visitors.

 

“Creating a new focus of where entertainment and gaming meet is very exciting,” she said.

 

The tourism slump stemming from this month’s terrorist attacks on America is giving the gambling industry fresh incentive to look to the Internet as a way to attract business through established brand names like Caesars Palace and Harrah’s.

 

“The Internet can …