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Mark Balestra

Go Time in Nevada

7 March 2001

The anxiously anticipated bill that would legalize online gambling in Nevada was introduced today in the State Assembly, and its chances of passing so far look pretty good.

While there's little indication yet as to the likelihood of similar bill in New Jersey (introduced in January) winning enough votes to pass, the outlook for the new Nevada legislation, Assembly Bill 296, is positive out of the chute. Thirty-three out of the state's 42 assemblymen are sponsoring the bill, which needless to say, indicates that there's a high level of interest in the state legislature.

Senator Raymond C. Shaffer, one of five Senate sponsors, isn't surprised that such an interest exists. "I would think that the majority of people in the legislature would want to take a serious look at it," Shaffer said.

Shaffer stopped short of endorsing the bill, but was quick to point out that if regulating Internet gambling is the best policy for the casino industry, then Nevada needs to lead the way. "We have a duty to support a major industry in our state instead of letting dollars go elsewhere," he said.

Introduced by Assemblywoman Merle Berman, AB 296 would authorize the gaming commission to "adopt regulations governing the licensing and operation of interactive gaming if the commission first makes certain determinations." The law would require that licenses could only be issued to resort hotels already holding unrestricted licenses and that revenue received from interactive gaming is subject to taxation in the same manner as gross revenue received from other games. The gaming commission, of course, would handle the task of setting up the regulations.

A point of interest is that the law would not necessarily restrict bets to only persons in Nevada. It would only require that the players are of lawful age and that they are "communicating only from jurisdictions where it is lawful to make such communications." Thus interstate and international transactions would appear to be legal provided that online gambling is legal in the jurisdiction where the player is located.

As pointed out by Senator Shaffer, the bill has a great chance of passing if it's determined to be what's best for the Nevada casino industry, and the industry's initial position is that it indeed is. Berman made sure of this before formally introducing the legislation by seeking input from several casino companies as well as approval from the gaming board and the gaming commission.

"Assemblywoman Berman was very helpful in allowing the industry to participate," MGM Mirage Vice Chairman Dan Wade said. "It's the first step in a long process and it puts the Nevada casino industry in a good position.

Wade also pointed out that the Nevada Resort Association has voted unanimously to support the bill.

Harrah's has shown its support as well. "I think this is a step in the right direction," Harrah's spokesperson Gary Thompson said. "If the bill is passed and it proves successful, Nevada gaming regulators could provide a model for other states as they have in the past."

Thompson also points out that a regulatory bill could prove advantageous in that it would curb illegal gambling activity. "The bill gives tacit recognition of the fact that illegal, or quasi, gambling is growing and that there's a need to regulate and protect the interest of the public," he added.

If online gambling was legalized in Nevada, would Harrah's, a very technology savvy company which already maintains a play-for-free Internet casino, jump all over the opportunity?

You might expect the answer to be a definitive "yes," but Thompson emphasized that they would only proceed to take online bets in Nevada if doing so was acceptable in other jurisdictions where they operate. "We will not do anything to jeopardize any of our licenses in any of the jurisdictions where we operate," he said.

The introduction of the bill comes during very turbulent times for gaming in Nevada. As the state now considers expanding gambling by utilizing new media, restrictions loom on the federal level. Legislators expect a bill that would outlaw wagering on college sports in Nevada to be re-introduced in the near future. A group of Nevada congressmen, meanwhile, is hoping to pass a law that would make a college betting bill unnecessary by cracking down on illegal betting.

At the same time, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman would like to see Vegas lure the Vancouver Grizzlies National Basketball League franchise to town. If that were to happen, there's a good chance that betting on NBA games would be prohibited in Nevada.

With sports betting restrictions a distinct possibility for the near future, Internet gambling, a $3 billion year industry, might fill the revenue void rather nicely.

Click here to view AB 296.

Go Time in Nevada is republished from
Mark Balestra
Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.
Mark Balestra
Mark Balestra is the Managing Director at BolaVerde Media Group. He previously worked at Clarion Gaming and the River City Group where he was the publisher of iGamingNews. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri.