Nevada Assembly Approves Preemptive Online Poker Bill

Today, the Nevada Assembly approved a bill that would pave the way for the licensing and regulation of online poker. Though the unanimous vote to pass the bill shows that Nevada legislators recognize a need for more government involvement in the oversight of online gambling, the bill gives little to no immediate hope that the state will legalize intrastate online poker any time soon. That’s because the original online poker proposal that went before the Assembly was dramatically pared down. The revised bill only passed because the measures approved will not be taken until the federal government legalizes online poker first.

PokerStars has been lobbying aggressively for the passage of the bill. That’s because the original draft of the bill proposed full legalization of online poker within the state of Nevada. Four days before the Assembly reviewed and voted on the proposal, though, a policy committee made it more palatable (and far less controversial) by removing any wording that would have allowed Nevada to legalize intrastate poker. Any course of action outlined in the bill is now dependent on federal gambling legislation. In other words, the revised Nevada bill will do nothing to restore PokerStars’ ability to serve American members again any time soon.

Though the new bill in no way benefits poker sites already affected by the Department of Justice‘s Black Friday crackdown, a clause that the policy committee left in the proposal will give one group a very significant advantage once online poker is legalized by the federal government. Not surprisingly, the new legislation favors Nevada’s brick and mortar gambling brands. Online poker sites that wish to be licensed in Nevada will have to partner with existing gambling license holders in the state. That means that the casinos and poker rooms that previously complained that online poker would pull from their own revenue will now be guaranteed a cut of Internet gambling profits.

Now that the poker bill has earned the Assembly’s stamp of approval, it will be the Nevada Gaming Commission‘s responsibility to fulfill the purpose of the new legislation. To do that, the NGC will need to draft viable regulatory and licensing programs by January of 2012. Though those programs will not change the way that the state currently treats online gambling entities, they will ensure that when the U.S. government does finally legalize online poker Nevada will be ready and able to start licensing poker sites immediately.

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