Nevada Pushes the Envelope of Online Gaming Nevada Pushes the Envelope of Online Gaming
mrceviz , digital_a

Nevada continues to roll ahead with its plans to offer internet poker. At a two-day U.S. Online Gaming Law conference last Thursday Mark Lipparelli, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, indicated that the agency will begin taking licensing applicants to operate internet poker in Nevada as early as February.

The allowance for these applicants are in accordance with legislation signed by Nevada governor Brian Sandoval last summer that would require state gaming regulators and license holders to adopt rules for licensing by January 31, 2012.

A.B. 258 revised provisions on governing the licensing and operation of internet gambling and was approved by Governor Sandoval on June 21. The bill allows Nevada to draft regulations that would take place as soon as federal online poker legislation is passed in the United States or the Department of Justice specifically notifies that certain online gambling activities are legal, whichever comes first.

With the go ahead from Sandoval and regulations in place, Nevada can rubber-stamp worthy applicants for intrastate play as soon as early 2012. The efforts would make Nevada the leader in regulated online poker with no clear federal ban on intrastate play.

While the future for federally regulated online poker remains murky, Nevada has its regulations lined up for either intrastate or interstate play. Until the recent statements from Lipparelli there was no specific word that the Nevada Gaming Commission had license offerings in mind. Now the door is open for Nevada as these licenses will be good for both in-state and federal play should federal passage occur.

Lipparelli indicates that licenses will be more easily rewarded to companies that already have brick and mortar gaming licenses from the Nevada Gaming Commission. Companies without previous gaming licenses will undergo a licensing investigation, which could take months longer.

Some of the required regulations of AB258 for the NGC to follow are:

  • Site operators must be located in Nevada unless federal authority says otherwise
  • Player deposits can include check, wire transfers, casino transfers, and debit or credit cards.
  • No player-to-player funds transfers
  • Age 21 or older with identity verification
  • $250,000 licensing fee for site operators

In the spring Governor Sandoval indicated his desire for a fair and competitive online poker market. “The preservation of our regulatory integrity is not my only concern. It is essential to the growth of our economy that we maintain a competitive gaming market,” said Sandoval. “I would therefore ask that any bill passed not afford a competitive advantage (or disadvantage) to any gaming company…It is important that we begin from equal footing.”

Sandoval said in a gaming conference earlier this month that he is unsure where Congress stands on legalizing internet poker. Many believe that the proposed Nevada regulations may be at odds with the position taken by Senators Harry Reid (D-Nev) and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) in a letter to the Department of Justice arguing that any intrastate system would violate federal law.

There is a degree of uncertainty in the progress of this state regulation. Nevada will almost certainly be offering in-state online poker as of 2012 but many wonder if this push has federal implications in mind. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has implied an interest in Nevada becoming the center for licensing of internet poker in the United States and these amended regulations could easily transfer to such offerings.

More recently Caesars Entertainment Corp., indicated that it has plans to make another run to go public with potential online poker offerings in the near future. The announcement of this comes at a curious time as Nevada is well on its way to online poker and federal passage is still in the mix.

Gov. Sandoval even made comments of interest regarding federally licensed online poker asking that any bill on the subject “encourage Congress to enact legislation providing for the licensure of online poker as soon as practicable.”

As is always the case in the ongoing battle for internet poker, industry hopefuls will have to wait and see what becomes of the Nevada legislation in light of federal law.

The Nevada Gaming Commission has scheduled a hearing for December 22, 2011 at 10am to adopt or amend any new regulations.