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Gaming license applications prove Nevada is well ahead of the pack

This week brought more proof that Nevada leads the horse race to control the online gaming revolution. Churchill Downs Inc., which operates the host racetrack of the Kentucky Derby, has filed an application with Nevada regulators to provide interactive online gaming services here.

In its filing with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, the company joins nearly three dozen casino operators and gaming equipment providers now seeking approval for interactive gaming within the state, Las Vegas attorney Frank Schreck confirmed Monday. Nevada regulators already have licensed slot makers Bally Technologies and International Game Technology to provide interactive gaming, and they’ve given preliminary approval to Shuffle Master.

In keeping with the current position of federal law enforcement, Nevada has adopted regulations that allow wagering – with real money – on Internet poker so long as the gambling is conducted within the state’s boundaries. Despite that limited market, businesses are making aggressive moves to get a piece of it.

Churchill Downs operates twinspires.com, an online advance-deposit wagering service for both the company’s racetracks and others around the country. Over the past few years, Churchill Downs has acquired Youbet.com, which was folded into TwinSpires.com, and Bluff Media, an Atlanta-based multimedia poker content, brand and publishing company. Churchill Downs, which is publicly traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the symbol CHDN, has said the acquisition of Bluff Media eventually would allow the company to pursue Internet poker once the activity is legalized at a state or federal level.

Besides the Louisville racetrack, Churchill Downs owns the Calder Casino & Race Course in Miami Gardens, Fla.; Harlow’s Casino Resort & Hotel in Greenville, Miss.; Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans; and the Arlington Park racetrack near Chicago.

The trend grows obvious. So long as the legal status of online interstate gaming remains in limbo, United States firms – and taxmen – miss out on what could be a commanding share of a multibillion-dollar business. And as savvy investors survey the likely landscape of future, legalized online play, more and more of them conclude that the road leads through Nevada, which has a lead in regulatory infrastructure that may prove insurmountable for other jurisdictions.

Down the stretch they come.

A dramatic breakthrough may not be likely until after this fall’s elections, but Nevada is wise to continue laying the groundwork for an orderly rollout of legal online gaming in the not-too-distant future. If we build it, they will come.

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