In an historic move, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law a bill that legalizes online gambling in the state, making Nevada the first state in the country to approve interstate online gambling.
Nevada’s coup is in beating out New Jersey’s push to set the precedent. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, who previously vetoed an online wagering bill, has said that he may sign an amended version soon.
The Nevada bill signing came after a frenzied effort by the Legislature as lawmakers rushed to pass the bill in the House and Senate and then send it to the governor for signature.
What’s the impetus for being first? In a word, money. As Sandoval and members of the Nevada legislature said, it is important for Nevada to remain at the forefront of the gaming industry. This most certainly includes online gambling.
Sandoval, a former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, said, “This bill is critical to our state’s gaming economy and ensures that we will continue to be the gold standard for gaming regulation.”
What the bill provides
Known as AB114, the Nevada bill authorizes the state to enter into compacts with other states to offer internet poker. The next step is for gambling regulators to put together the regulations that will dictate the parameters of the compacts.
Partnering with other states is the key to Nevada’s being able to expand its customer base. It also allows other states to benefit from Nevada’s gambling regulation expertise.
A lobbyist for the Nevada Resort Association, Pete Ernaut, said that Nevada “has the most mature financial, auditing and collection capabilities, much greater than some of those states, and they have the players.”
Already, some of the world’s biggest casino companies, including the MGM Resorts, Wynn Resorts and Las Vegas Sands, are getting ready to enter the online market.
But not everyone is completely sold on either how lucrative online gambling will be to the casino companies or how much consumers will be protected.
The concern of some is that if everyone jumps into the online gambling arena, then no one makes money.
But the CEO of MGM, James Murren, offers the view that the government should have more of a role in online gambling to protect consumers, saying, “Americans are illegally gambling today online with no protections whatsoever, whether they’re underage or have any type of addictive behavior.”
Other states to get in on the action
What’s next? How many more states will rush to push through online gambling or enter into the aforementioned compacts with Nevada? Expect New Jersey to be the next state to legalize online gambling, given Governor Christie’s published statements. According to reports in several media sources, Delaware and possibly Indiana are not far behind.
Indeed, several states began looking into online gambling after the Department of Justice issued a letter in 2011 stating that the federal Wire Act of 1961 only applied to sports betting.
What is true is that the domino effect is clearly in play. What is not known yet is what effect legalizing online gambling will have on the millions of Americans who are already compulsive gamblers, let alone those who may be pushed over the edge, lured by the promise that gambling online is completely legal.