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State moving forward on Internet poker

A productive, constructive Monday hearing was a sure sign that Nevada is moving full speed ahead on one of its most important economic initiatives.

No, it wasn’t the opening meeting on the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s plan to pump large amounts of groundwater from rural areas and pipe it 300 miles south to the Las Vegas Valley. No doubt, pipeline opponents will continue their fight long after the hearings conclude Nov. 18.

That contentious daylong gathering in Carson City was a stark contrast to a Las Vegas meeting of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which addressed proposed Internet poker regulations. The board heard public input for about 75 minutes, taking just a few comments from a room packed with lawyers, consultants and gaming industry representatives.

“I think we have a solid foundation for regulations,” board Chairman Mark Lipparelli said. Once cleanup revisions are made, regulations that were released just a month ago should be adopted by the control board and the Nevada Gaming Commission by December.

That’s just the first step, of course. Federal law still prohibits Internet gaming, and although the Justice Department is coming down hard on online poker sites that ignored the ban, Congress seems inclined to repeal the heavy-handed statute.

Nevada is moving quickly because officials want an oversight structure in place the very day Congress legalizes Internet poker. That will enable Nevada companies to jump into a multibillion-dollar market immediately and establish the state as the best place for poker sites to do business.

To describe legalized, regulated Internet poker as a game-changer for the battered Nevada economy is an understatement. It holds the potential to create high-paying, technology-related jobs and boost tax collections without raising existing levies.

Now Nevada’s congressional delegation, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, needs to press the issue in Washington. Congress is consumed by budgets and President Obama’s class warfare agenda, but could easily complete the process of legalizing Internet poker by early next year.

There is no compelling reason for the federal government to deny millions of Americans the ability to compete in a game of skill from the comfort of their own homes.

The water authority’s pipeline might need a decade to navigate court challenges and complete construction. But Nevada will be ready in just a few months to open a massive pipeline to a new kind of business. That’s something the state can be rightly proud of.

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