Online gambling in general has been legal in NV since 2013, but only online poker has regulatory approval

Nevada Regulators To Consider Authorizing Online Casinos In Public Consultation May 13

The US could soon see one more state with legal online casinos. The remarkable thing is that it won’t require new legislation to happen.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board is hosting a public workshop on May 13 to discuss the possibility. The workshop will take place at 11 a.m. local time, both online and in person at the NGCB’s offices.

Those interested in participating actively in the workshop need to apply. The NGCB will consider applications in the order it receives them. For those who simply want to listen in online, no application is needed. They can also submit comments and questions to the NGCB’s Executive Secretary in advance, to be read at the meeting.

The purpose of the workshop is comment only. Assuming the response is favorable, concrete action to begin the process will take place at a subsequent meeting.

Update (05/14/21): The workshop was postponed a few days before its originally scheduled date. It will now be held some time after the state’s legislative session ends on June 1.

Online casinos are already legal in Nevada

As it stands, online poker in Nevada is already legal, as is online sports betting, though the latter generally requires in-person registration. This makes Nevada unique among iGaming states, as there’s nowhere else in the US that online poker exists in the absence of online casinos.

In fact, both online casinos and online poker were legalized at the same time, in 2013. The bill in question, AB 114, doesn’t actually mention poker by name. Rather, it authorizes “online gambling” in general, leaving the specifics up to the NGCB.

However, the state’s gambling industry itself didn’t want online casinos. At the time, the prevailing belief was that online products would compete with retail gambling. Because so much of the Las Vegas economy revolves around land-based gambling, stakeholders feared that disruption.

Poker, not being a big money maker for land-based casinos, has never been so big of a problem. Nevada was actually the first state to get its first online poker rooms up and running, beating New Jersey by a matter of months.

Now, attitudes are changing, and Nevada casinos may be more eager to take advantage of the possibility that’s been open to them for nearly a decade.

Regulation is complicated, but simpler than legalization

It’s great news for Nevada that its lawmakers have already taken care of their end of things. The legislative process itself is the single biggest hurdle to gambling expansion. States with short legislative sessions, which include Nevada, have a particularly hard time with it.

Introducing a new vertical by way of regulatory rule-making is much easier. That said, there are still multiple details to take care of. The NGCB is proposing amending its current rules as follows:

  • Removing the current limitation interactive gaming to poker only
  • Removing the definition of “poker” as a separate game, and instead defining “peer-to-peer” and “non-peer-to-peer” games more broadly
  • Clarifying that all interactive gaming operators must continue to meet the qualifications for licensing
  • Deleting certain limitations on what individuals may access interactive gaming systems
  • Making multiple amendments to rules about player registration, collection of personal information and record-keeping, self-exclusion, game rules, operator revenue, celebrity endorsement, obligatory regulatory information on operator websites, etc.

Not all of these are necessary just to launch online casinos. However, it appears that the Nevada regulator wishes to modernize its market in several ways. That being the case, it makes sense to do it all at once, rather than launch online casinos with one set of rules and impose new ones shortly thereafter.

Why the time is right for Nevada online casinos

Back in 2013, resistance to online casinos was powerful in Nevada. However, the situation has changed considerably, in three important ways.

Firstly, there are now some case studies to look at. Fears about online gambling loomed large in 2013, but New Jersey has been a poster child for how valuable it can be. It’s also been a fairly unproblematic market, and that should quell many fears. Specifically, Atlantic City casinos are, if anything, doing better now than they were before NJ online gambling came to pass. The idea that online casinos cannibalize land-based revenue doesn’t hold much water these days.

Not only that, but Pennsylvania’s online gambling market, and Michigan’s promising start should lay to rest any idea that New Jersey is an exceptional case. So far, there’s been no state to implement online casinos which has later come to regret it.

Secondly, the biggest opponent of all is gone. Though resistance to iGaming was widespread in Nevada’s casino industry, there was no one more adamant about it than Sheldon Adelson, founder of Las Vegas Sands. His influence on US gambling policy was huge, and in Nevada even more so.

Adelson’s successor at the helm of LVS, Robert Goldstein, is not nearly as opposed to online gambling as he was. The point is moot, however, as Sands has already left Las Vegas, having sold its properties there to Apollo Global Management for $2.25 billion.

Finally, COVID-19 has shown the world how important it is to have the online channel as a backup for the retail casino industry. The shutdown of casinos it forced last spring devastated many state’s economies. Nevada, of course, had it harder than anyone, and it will not want a repeat of that situation in future.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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