On Thursday, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved regulations that could launch the first intrastate online poker market in 2012. The Wall Street Journalwas among several mainstream outlets to report the news on Thursday, noting that it was a watershed moment for online poker supporters in the United States: “The new rules are the first comprehensive regulatory standards drawn up for online gambling in the U.S. and are likely to become an important test case as states and the Federal Government consider new laws allowing online poker.”
The vote to approve the Board’s regulations was unanimous.
What happens now is anyone’s guess. The Journal added that Nevada could allow legal online poker next year without waiting for guidance from the Federal Government: “Nevada’s new regulations could allow the state’s casino companies to operate gambling websites limited to players within Nevada’s borders.”
Nevada has already begun the process of accepting applications from companies to operate online poker sites. These licensees could, according to the Journal, begin accepting bets as soon as 2012: “Such websites could be up and running before the end of next year as long as they adhere to the state’s standards.”
In case you’re wondering, Nevada’s online gaming regulations require rooms to have enough cash on-hand to pay all players back at any time, in essence avoiding a debacle like the one that occurred at Full Tiltfollowing Black Friday. The Journal added that underage gambling was also addressed in the Commission’s regulations: “Operators must verify the age and location of every gambler who registers within 30 days of registration and cannot extend credit to gamblers.”
In a conference held in Washington, DC earlier this month on internet gambling that PocketFives attended, much debate took place as to how the U.S. Department of Justice would react if a state like Nevada began allowing online poker rooms. Would the DOJ step in, invoking the Wire Act or UIGEA and shutting the industry down? Or would it let states proceed? Whatever happens in Nevada will likely set a precedent for the other 49 states.
One regulation adopted on Thursday in Nevada centers on player ownership levels. The Wall Street Journal noted, “The regulations limit the profits available to celebrity poker players employed by the site, which addresses problems that arose at the poker site Full Tilt Poker that is owned by a number of celebrity poker players.” Full Tilt has not paid back players following Black Friday, as the DOJ alleged that it instead paid out over $400 million to its executives, all the while owing customers nearly the same amount.
Only intrastate online poker in Nevada will be allowed from the get-go. In addition, “the main operator of the websites must be a Nevada casino company.” The state only has about 2.6 million residents, but houses the headquarters of casino giants like MGM Mirage and Caesars Entertainment, the latter of which owns and operates the annual World Series of Poker at the Rio.
Earlier this month, Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson (pictured) told U.S. Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and the American Gaming Association that “he doesn’t believe technology can prevent underage gamblers from betting online, and that he is ‘morally opposed’ to internet gaming.” Whether the Las Vegas Sands company, which is tied to the Venetian and Palazzo, would run an online poker room in the desert state remains to be seen.
As for Caesars, interestingly enough, a spokesperson for the company told the Journal that the company “isn’t sure yet whether or not it will try to operate a website in Nevada right away or just wait for Federal legislation to pass allowing a national network.” With an election year looming in 2012, proponents of a Federal licensing regime will have plenty of issues to contend with on Capitol Hill.
Stay tuned to PocketFives for the latest poker legislation news.