LAS VEGAS -- Nevada's budding Internet poker market could eventually accept wagers from players in other states under a proposed legislative change in the Silver State's interactive gambling regulations.
In a bill draft submitted to the Legislature, the Nevada State Gaming Control Board Gaming Commission wants to amend interactive gaming regulatory language that would allow Nevada's governor to enter agreements with other states that legalize Internet poker.
Conceivably, the interstate gaming compacts would allow Nevada-based Internet poker websites to accept bets from gamblers from states with similar interactive gaming laws, considerably growing the size of the potential player pool.
Under Nevada's interactive gaming regulations, websites in the state can accept wagers only from players gambling on computers or mobile devices within the state's borders.
The suggested changes, proposed in Assembly Bill 5, were drafted by the control board in consultation with the governor's office.
Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett said Monday the language is beneficial to Nevada because Congress has not enacted federal legislation to legalize Internet poker. Meanwhile, several states, including New Jersey and California, are working to enact online gaming laws.
"The need to make clear the governor's ability, should he choose to negotiate such agreements, was paramount," Burnett said. "I don't know if there are specific negotiations right now."
Nevada gaming regulators have licensed 17 casino operators and technology providers under the state's interactive gaming regulations that were approved last year. Three more companies are seeking interactive license approvals this month.
Interactive poker websites could launch in Nevada by the spring once the technology is approved by testing laboratories and gaming regulators.
Internet poker experts have questioned the potential success of Nevada-based Internet poker websites because of the relatively small size of the potential player pool.
In December, Sen. Harry Reid ended an effort in Congress to legalize Internet poker during the lame-duck session. Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, and Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., had authored Internet poker legislation.
Kyl has since retired from Congress but Reid and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., vowed to bring the bill back before the new Congress this year.
Observers said the casino industry, which wanted federal Internet poker legalization, is now focused on state-by-state legislation.
New Jersey lawmakers approved similar legislation to Nevada's interactive gaming regulations in December, although the bill is awaiting Gov. Chris Christie's signature. Atlantic City casinos would be allowed to operate online gaming websites catering to state residents.
Also in December, a California lawmaker resurrected a long-stalled proposal to legalize Internet poker and other online gambling. The bill would have the state issue five-year licenses to operate Internet gambling websites, with eligible bidders including Indian tribes, card clubs, horse racing associations and online advanced deposit wagering sites.
In a December research report to investors, Macquarie Securities gaming analyst Chad Beynon said as more states adopt online gaming regulations, it will become less likely that federal online poker bill will make it through Congress.
Burnett said the proposed minor changes in the state interactive gaming regulations would keep Nevada at the forefront as the online poker potential expands in the United States.
"We wanted to make sure the authority was there, however, to add more options in order to help the state," Burnett said.
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