Nevada and Delaware have entered an online poker compact that is at once historic and absurd. It’s historic in that, one day soon, it will allow card players to lawfully gamble across state lines using the Internet. But it’s absurd that such an arrangement is necessary to comply with a federal ban on Web gaming.
Until Congress fully legalizes interstate online poker, the only way Nevada can grow its fledgling Internet gaming industry is to partner with other states that allow Web play. On Tuesday, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell signed the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement in Wilmington as a starting point. Both states want to partner with other more populous states to grow their poker player pool and governments’ take from the rake. If additional states decide to allow online gaming but do not enter an interstate agreement, their residents will not be able to gamble against players outside their borders.
As reported Wednesday by the Review-Journal’s Steve Tetreault and Howard Stutz, Nevada and Delaware now must merge their technology platforms. Once that happens, players will have to log into a casino site in their home state to join games involving players from the other state. Nevada players will be subject to Nevada gaming laws and regulations, and Delaware players will be subject to Delaware laws and regulations. The states will collect taxes based on the play of their own residents.
It’s an unnecessarily complicated arrangement that, once working, should prove to Congress that regulated interstate online poker is not a threat to the republic. After all, Americans have enjoyed nationwide online poker previously. It’s been almost three years since the Justice Department shut down thriving Internet poker sites to “protect” the people who loved playing there. A return to that time, subject to one set of rules (preferably mirroring Nevada’s industry-leading standards), is long overdue.
In the meantime, thanks to Gov. Sandoval, Gov. Markell and Nevada’s online poker operators for pressing the issue and not waiting for Washington to act.