Nevada Legalizes Online Gambling, Beating Rival New Jersey

In the online gambling version of the Space Race, emergency legislation flew through the Nevada Assembly and Senate, and was hastily signed by Governor Brian Sandoval, legalizing online gambling in the Silver State on February 21. Nevada had in 2011 passed legislation which would allow it to quickly offer online gambling should the United States Department of Justice legalize it. After the DOJ reversed their age-old stance on Internet gambling in late 2011, the table was set for individual states to hit the virtual felt.

Legislation was quickly passed for Nevada online poker, but that was limited to their state residents and visitors. Delaware passed a similar online gambling package, also limiting access to gamblers physically located within their state boundaries. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is rumored to pass an amended online wagering bill in New Jersey next week, and Nevada desperately wanted to pass Assembly Bill 114, the online interstate gaming bill, ahead of any New Jersey legislation.

New Jersey is the East Coast king of brick-and-mortar casinos, and with Nevada officially now the first state in the country to approve interstate online gaming, that puts them at the forefront of the burgeoning billion-dollar industry. Backdoor deals and late-night handshakes put the legislation infrastructure in place, and after both Senate and Assembly preliminary judiciary committees approved the new online gambling package, it blazed through the Assembly and then the Senate.

A press conference had already been convened, and the paperwork was not on Governor Brian Sandoval’s desk very long before he inked his signature. Sandoval claimed “an historic day for the great state of Nevada,” and went on to state that he believes this framework will usher in the “next frontier of gaming in Nevada.” Sandoval is a former chairman on the Nevada Gaming Commission, and he praised Democrat and Assembly Majority Leader William Horne for “shepherding the bill” to its completion.

In somewhat friendly ribbing, Horne and other Nevada legislators said that New Jersey should be accustomed to following Nevada where gambling is concerned both online and off. But don’t be surprised if New Jersey is the first state Nevada agrees to an interstate compact with. AB114 allows Nevada to make partnerships with other states that also offer Internet poker, allowing each state to grow their player pool. The historic bill approved Thursday calls for a $500,000 fee for any company that wishes to provide online gambling in Las Vegas, with a renewal fee set at $250,000 and a provision for the Nevada Gaming Commission authority to change those figures in the future.