Gov. Brian Sandoval said Thursday he has held preliminary talks with other state governors on partnering with Nevada on Internet poker.
Sandoval didn’t name the states but gaming sources said Texas could be a target.
Sandoval, a Republican, supported Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s brief run for the GOP’s presidential nomination last year. Also, the Texas Legislature is considering the Poker Gaming Act of 2013, which would make it legal in the state to play poker online.
“I’ve talked with a few governors and I’m introducing the concept of compacting,” Sandoval said following a tour of the new corporate headquarters in Las Vegas for BMM International, one of two laboratories that tests gaming equipment for Nevada regulators.
“It’s very much in the early stages and we have a great opportunity because we have the infrastructure and other states have the players,” Sandoval said. “I’m hopeful we’ll continue to talk.”
In February, Nevada lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 114 and Sandoval signed the measure into law, all in less than seven hours. The bill allowed Nevada to move ahead with online poker without federal legalization and permitted the governor to enter into interstate compacts that would expand the customer base for Nevada casinos.
On April 30, Ultimate Poker, which is majority owned by Station Casinos, became the first legal pay-to-play poker website in Nevada. Just before midnight Tuesday, the website dealt its 1 millionth hand, officials said.
Other poker-only websites are in the process of being approved by testing labs and Nevada gaming regulators.
During a conference call Wednesday to discuss the opening later this month of the World Series of Poker, Caesars Interactive Entertainment officials expressed optimism a Nevada-based World Series of Poker Internet gaming website would become operational during the tournament’s six-week run at the Rio.
Nevada is not the only state that has legalized Internet gaming regulations. New Jersey and Delaware have approved measures and several other states, including California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Iowa, are exploring bills. However, the Silver State has the nation’s only active and legal website.
“We’re already ahead of other markets,” Sandoval said. “People are signing up (for Ultimate Poker) from all over the world. Other companies are in the queue.”
Sandoval added that “there are some things that have to happen in other states” before compacts can be signed. Texas, for example, needs to legalize Internet poker and lawmakers have until May 27 to pass the measure before the regular legislative session ends.
Sandoval said he is happy with Nevada’s progress in Internet gaming. The governor said he wasn’t worried by a perceived notion that the websites are slow in coming to market.
“(The Gaming Control Board) needs to be extremely careful on how they do this,” Sandoval said. “Over time, people will forget about that part and see how successful it will become.”
BMM Vice President of Operations Travis Foley said the time frame to approve the technology has been “quicker than expected.” BMM worked on the Ultimate Poker approval.
“This is all new technology that has never been done in Nevada,” Foley said. “It’s been a very efficient process.”
Sandoval commended BMM for its expansion in Nevada. A measure approved in the 2011 Legislature allowed for the Gaming Control Board to contract with independent testing labs to certify equipment used in Nevada casinos, as well as Internet poker systems.
BMM, which has offices around the world, moved from a 7,500-square-foot facility on Eastern Avenue, to a 23,500-square-foot building on Pilot Road in the McCarran Executive Center.
Foley said the number of employees at the facility has doubled since the move to 65. Another 100 workers could be hired as business increases. BMM tests gaming equipment for several jurisdictions at it Las Vegas laboratory.
“This is exactly what we had hoped for when the law was approved,” Sandoval said. “BMM is a wonderful Nevada success story.”
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.Governor opposed to broad-based tax
Gov. Brian Sandoval said Thursday he would not support a board-based business tax proposal offered by Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn, who presented the idea to Nevada lawmakers earlier this month.
Sandoval said he met privately with Wynn.
“It’s not something before the Legislature right now,” Sandoval said of Wynn’s idea for a 0.5 percent board-based tax on all businesses with $1 million or more in annual revenues.
“There are a couple of other tax proposals that I said I’m not supporting. As we move forward, I’ll continue to have dialogue with him.”
As for Wynn’s comment that Nevada’s gaming industry was in ill health, Sandoval said, “things are improving steadily.”
He added, “It’s a fragile economy and we want to ensure that we keep it strong.”
HOWARD STUTZ/LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL