Gaming:

Nevada approves nation’s first regulations for Internet poker play

The Nevada Gaming Commission approved the nation’s first regulations for Internet poker play today, opening the door to the licensing of companies to offer online play within the state.

Play across state lines still wouldn’t be allowed because of restrictions imposed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Representatives of the industry applauded the unanimous vote and companies already licensed by the state can apply to expand their current status. Companies that haven’t been licensed in Nevada would undergo the same investigative scrutiny required by state gaming regulations.

The new regulations require applicants to prove their ability to maintain controls on player registration, prevent underage play and establish the location of players before being licensed.

Regulations also address what information must be presented on their websites, record keeping, dispute resolution, fees and taxation and problem gambling notifications.

Six companies already have applications in the regulatory pipeline for licensing: Cantor Gaming, Shuffle Master, International Game Technology, Bally’s Technology, Caesars Entertainment and the South Point.

State officials are optimistic that the approval of regulations would lead to technology companies opening operations in Nevada and existing companies expanding operations.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli said it’s too early to tell what company would be the first licensed to offer online poker. He told the commission that companies that have appeared before regulators recently would have an edge because investigators would have less material to review due to recent scrutiny.

The first licensing considerations are likely to come by spring.

The development of Internet gambling regulations has been a smooth process since Gov. Brian Sandoval – a former Gaming Commission chairman – signed legislation approved by lawmakers in the 2011 session.

Several workshop meetings were free of controversy and today’s public hearing included no opposition or major amendments to the document, the 11th version presented following a series of revisions.

The interactive gaming rules, Regulation 5A, were one of six regulations adopted or amended today. Other regulations incorporated references to the new interactive gambling policy into existing rules.

Gaming Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard said he expects the regulations to be tweaked in the future as the Control Board and commission encounter issues that weren’t contemplated in the document approved today.

Among matters that may be considered are requests made by the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, which sent a letter last week requesting additional information be placed in regulations.

The rules require Internet sites offering online play to have active links to information explaining dispute resolution, a problem gambling website, the Control Board’s site, a self-exclusion option and to rules of the game.

Carol O’Hare, executive director of the Nevada Council on Problem Gambling, asked that a national telephone help line be required on gambling sites. Commissioners agreed to consider it.

Industry leaders acknowledged the historic merit of the commission’s action.

Gaming attorney Bob Faiss of Lionel Sawyer & Collins noted similarities with the online regulations to when the state first drafted rules governing gambling.

“Nevada was condemned by every other state for legalizing an activity that was criminalized in all those states,” Faiss said. “The goal of the federal government was to wipe out our gaming industry. It is not unreasonable to say that without Nevada’s commercial and regulatory success with respect to casino gaming, there would be no gaming industry today in the United States and little anywhere else.

“Now, Nevada gaming control and industry it governs are recognized as world leaders and models for replication,” he said. “It can be expected that this Nevada system for playing poker on the Internet will merit the same distinctions.”

Lee Amaitis, president and CEO of Cantor Gaming, a relatively new entrant to the industry that has capitalized on its technologic innovations in mobile gaming, applauded regulators for their efforts.

“This is an important day for gaming control everywhere as Nevada again opens a path to a future that will benefit jurisdictions around the globe,” Amaitis said. “I feel privileged to share it with you.”

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