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Jackpot: Nevada expects big money after online gambling legalization

Published time: February 23, 2013 10:28
Edited time: February 23, 2013 16:50
Reuters/Beck Diefenbach

Reuters/Beck Diefenbach

Nevada has beaten their casino rivals from New Jersey to become the first US state to legalize online gambling and open doors to a potential national market of $4 billion to $10 billion per year.

State Governor Brian Sandoval put his signature on the document Thursday after lawmakers passed the bill through the Nevada Assembly and Senate as an emergency measure.

The rush is explained by the fact that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has previously vetoed a similar bill, but made it clear that he may well sign it next week if it’s framed properly.

“This is a historic day for the great state of Nevada,” Sandoval, who used to be a chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, said in a statement. “Today I sign into law the framework that will usher in the next frontier of gaming in Nevada.”

“This bill is critical to our state’s economy and ensures that we will continue to be the gold standard for gaming regulation,”
he added.

The AB114 law requires the Nevada Gaming Commission to adopt a set of regulations authorizing the governor to enter into agreements with other US states to conduct interactive gambling.

It’s especially important for Nevada, which has a rather small demand for online wagering due to a large number of real-life casinos in Las Vegas and other parts of the state.

“We don’t have a universe of players,” Pete Ernaut, a Nevada political consultant, told The Las Vegas Review-Journal. “So for us, what we get to offer to a state like California or Texas is that we have the most mature regulatory infrastructure. We have the most mature financial, auditing and collection capabilities, much greater than some of those states, and they have the players.”

According to chairman of state’s Gaming Control Board, A.G. Burnett, by supply licensing and regulation Nevada could make online gambling – primarily, poker –  accessible via the internet everywhere in the US, which would create a potential market of $4 billion to $10 billion per year.

Nevada started working towards agreements with other states after their claims to legalize internet gambling were denied by the Congress back in 2011.

But a letter from Department of Justice, which stated that the Wire Act of 1961 – often used to crack down on wagering on the web – only applies to sports betting, allowed the state to bypass the federal ban.

“We feel pretty certain that an agreement with another state would be legal because it is some form of compact,” Burnett said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “We are being cautious and researching so that we do things appropriately. We are not going too fast and don’t want to offend the federal government in any way. But we need to allow our licensees to compete.”

With law coming into force immediately, and Burnett adds the state already has around 20 applications for online gambling licenses from different operators, equipment and software vendors.

The first online bet in Nevada is expected to be placed in a couple of months, while such states like New Jersey and Delaware also expressing strong interest in internet gaming.