The Nevada Legislature worked diligently and unanimously approved an online poker bill allowing the Silver State to partner with other states to increase player liquidity without requiring federal approval.
Gov. Brian Sandoval, who alluded to the urgency of the bill in last month’s State of the State address, quickly signed the bill into law. Nevada’s haste was prompted by the recent events regarding the online gambling bill in New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed that state’s online gambling bill on Feb. 7, recommending higher taxes on Internet gaming operators and a 10-year trial period. After learning that the New Jersey Legislature would likely approve the conditions on Feb. 26, Christie said he would sign the bill in a couple days at the most once it reaches his desk.
That put the pressure on Nevada lawmakers, who desperately want to be the first state to be up and running with online poker sites, as well as have the ability to form compacts with other legalized states. The goal is to become the hub of the online gaming industry and being first in line means that other states will likely follow their lead regarding existing regulations.
“To the great state of New Jersey, Nevada is still No. 1 in gaming and will continue to be,” Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson told the Las Vegas Sun in regards to the competition with the Garden State.
Assembly Bill 114 ran into a minor roadblock last week when Majority Leader William Horne submitted a proposal to increase online poker license fees from $500,000 to $1 million. Gov. Sandoval was not in favor of Horne raising the ante and struck a compromise that keeps the base license fee at $500,000, but allows it to increase to $1 million for certain licensees. Likewise, the minimum fee decreased to $150,000. The fee rates will be decided by the Nevada Gaming Commission.
The bill also contains a bad actor clause that restricts companies who violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and continued to operate in the U.S. market. Seemingly aimed at PokerStars, the provision prohibits such companies from obtaining a license in Nevada for five years.
Nevada appears to be way out in front in being first to have operational real-money online poker sites. Nearly 20 gaming licenses have already been granted and software and technology testing continues. Delaware, the only other state to have legalized Internet gambling thus far, has set Sept. 30 as the deadline to be offering online gaming. New Jersey is projecting this fall as its online gambling launch, but still must pass the law first.