Years of urgent work by Nevada entrepreneurs, elected officials and gaming regulators paid off Tuesday when UltimatePoker.com opened for business, becoming the country’s first legal, regulated, real-money online poker website.
The launch comes about two years after federal prosecutors crushed the online poker industry, cutting off Americans’ access to global poker websites and indicting those who ran the businesses in defiance of federal law that bans Internet gaming. The heavy-handed action was a futile attempt to deny citizens the ability to enjoy the popular game of skill from the comfort of their own homes.
In the aftermath of that crackdown, Congress has refused to repeal the Internet gaming ban or carve out an exemption for regulated, interstate online poker. That prompted Nevada and handful of other states to race implementation of their own rules for online poker games played within their own borders. It’s official: Nevada won.
The state is positioned to become the industry leader and enter interstate compacts with other states, agreements that would allow Nevada websites to grow their pool of players.
Congratulations to Ultimate Poker, which is owned by Station Casinos. Its efforts have broken new ground in gaming. The company is working with state gaming regulators to make sure its technology prevents underage gambling, money laundering and gambling from across state lines. That’s important.
The best path forward for the online poker industry is federal legislation that creates a single, interstate regulatory structure — preferably one that mirrors Nevada’s nation-leading standard. But the state and its businesses have been wise to not wait for Washington. Now Internet poker is back, and it’s here to stay.