State regulators ready to revisit online gaming

Nevada gaming regulators are prepared to revisit the issue of online gaming within the state should efforts to overturn federal laws prohibiting Internet poker be successful, the state’s top gaming industry regulator said Monday.

“We do have a statute in Nevada that would allow for online gambling,” Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander said. “It’s something we’ve given quite a lot of thought to over the years.”

In 2001, Nevada passed legislation that allowed the Nevada Gaming Commission, working with the Control Board, to adopt regulations governing the licensing and operation of online gaming in the state.

Neilander said there were three issues the state law needed to answer before it could be implemented, though, including if online gaming could be done in compliance with all federal laws.

“We could never meet that criteria, so we didn’t move forward,” said Neilander.

He said if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s efforts to legalize online poker are successful, the state would be ready to proceed.

Before such regulations can be adopted, the state law requires regulators to determine if the federal law is “consistent with the public policy of Nevada,” and are there proper security measures to “restrict access from prohibited jurisdictions and to keep minors from wagering,” he said.

On Friday, Reid, D-Nev., began circulating a draft bill to legalize online poker. Sports wagering and other forms of gaming would still be illegal. The bill would also outsource oversight to state regulators and send taxes to both state and federal governments.

Neilander said the Nevada Control Board and Gaming Commission would “not take a position” on Reid’s proposal.

Online gambling in the United States was banned in 2006 with the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

The law, which was included in a port security bill that Congress voted on before the mid-term elections in 2006, forced U.S. banks and credit card companies to block electronic transactions to Internet gambling businesses, prohibited the use of checks to fund online accounts and included provisions that Internet service providers could be required to block access and remove links to gambling websites.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act passed by Congress in 1992 basically outlawed sports betting nationwide, expect for sports lotteries in Oregon, Delaware and Montana as well as licensed sports books in Nevada.

H2 Gambling Capital, a Manchester, U.K.-based market analysis firm for the gaming industry, predicts legal online gambling in the United States would create 32,000 jobs and $57.5 billion in tax revenue over five years.

The offshore real money Internet market generates approximately $105 billion in bets and $5.1 billion in gross win annually from the U.S. the firm said in a recent report.

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

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