By Ian Simpson
Feb 22 Nevada has become the first U.S. state to
legalize interstate online poker and allow state-to-state gaming
agreements, beating New Jersey to the punch and putting in place
a potential nationwide framework for Internet wagering.
Republican Governor Brian Sandoval signed the landmark
bipartisan bill into law on Thursday, authorizing his office to
enter into agreements with other states that will in effect
allow Nevada-based companies to host interactive gambling for
residents of other states.
A number of companies have already been granted Nevada
licenses for online poker, but were prepared to be limited to
serving Nevada residents. Applicants include social gaming
leader Zynga Inc. Shares in Zynga leapt as much as 7.4
percent on Friday.
With the bill, Nevada - home to Las Vegas, the world's
second-largest gambling hub - wants to pave the way for national
Internet wagering even though efforts at federal regulation have
stalled. Established companies including MGM Resorts and
Wynn Resorts hope they can add new customers and pitch
online players to come to Vegas.
"This bill is critical to our state's economy and ensures
that we will continue to be the gold standard for gaming
regulation," Sandoval said in a statement after signing the bill
The bill removes a provision requiring federal legislation
or Department of Justice approval before online gaming licenses
are made active, according to Nevada's statement.
Nevada Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, a Democrat
from Las Vegas, told Reuters that he expects online poker to be
the first of multiple online gambling offerings to residents of
"Initially it'll be starting with online poker, but certainly
the infrastructure is set up for various interactive gaming,"
"There are approximately a half-dozen companies already
licensed to do this in our state," Horne added. "We anticipate
that to grow significantly."
Horne said it is too early to say how much Nevada, which
relies heavily on tourists spending money at its resorts and in
its casinos, will see in the way of revenue from its initiative,
which relies on compacts with other states.
"We recognize that online gaming worldwide has generated in
excess of $5 billion," Horne said. "Going forward we anticipate
being competitive in this area."
Nevada's legislation comes as New Jersey - home to Atlantic
City - considers a similar move to legalize online gambling.
Republican Governor Chris Christie rejected a measure earlier
this month that would have allowed Internet gambling, but has
said he would consider approving such a law if it was framed
A RISING TIDE
Many industry players hope that a tide of such proposed
legislation will sweep through states across the country,
opening a massive new online market.
The bills follow a 2011 declaration by the U.S. Justice
Department that only online betting on sporting contests broke
federal law. That opened the door for states to legalize some
forms of online gambling.
Although widespread legalization appears years away at the
minimum, obtaining a license in Nevada would be a meaningful
start for the nationwide aspirations of entrants such as Zynga,
especially if they can offer games to those in other states.
Zynga, which runs one of the world's largest online
communities of poker players, is hoping that a lucrative
real-money market could make up for a steep slide in revenue
from games like "FarmVille" that are losing players but still
generate the bulk of its sales.
The Nevada signing came after a joint Judiciary committee
hearing on Thursday morning and approval by the legislature in