THE FIGHT: Licensing continues in Nevada and Delaware

After an eventful few months since the beginning of the year, the online poker legislative beat was relatively quiet this week. No major bills were proposed, passed, or killed. Instead the week was about some small gains.

Nevada, the state that is farthest along the road to regulated online poker, leads the news again this week with the approval by the Nevada Gaming Commission of interactive gaming licenses for 888 Holdings and Treasure Island Casino. 888 plans to operate Treasure Island’s online poker site in Nevada as well as provide a technology platform for Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s World Series of Poker branded site.

888 and Treasure Island join a list of approved licensees in Nevada that has grown to almost two dozen entities. It remains to be seen how long it will take 888’s software to pass compliance with Nevada’s strict regulatory requirements. The compliance process has been the main sticking point preventing other approved licensees from rolling out their online poker products.

888 was also in the news in Delaware, where state officials revealed that 14 companies have applied for online gaming licenses. Joining 888 in the licensing process are Rational Group, parent company of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, and Amaya Gaming, the owner of the Ongame Network.

Because of its small population (less than 1 million residents), Delaware is unlikely to make significant progress down the road towards the start of real-money games until interstate player-pooling agreements are inked and implemented. That process is picking up speed back in Nevada, where the NGC issued a request for public comments regarding the adoption of regulations to govern such agreements. Comments are required to be submitted by April 12.

Finally, the debate continues to rage in Illinois over the latest lengthy proposal to expand gambling in the state in order to address the state’s massive pension debt. The bill before the state legislature includes a detailed section covering online gaming.

“This is already going on,” Illinois Lottery Superintendent Michael Jones told the Daily Herald of Chicago. “It’s not like we’re inventing anything.” There’s also some concern that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will successfully pass federal legislation that bars all online gaming except for online poker. For what it’s worth, there’s been no news from Washington or Reid’s camp on any progress being made towards such legislation.

Others in Illinois aren’t as confident as Jones about the lack of novelty of implementing online gaming. Some lawmakers have expressed a preference to see other states lead the way on this issue, allowing Illinois to better judge the feasibility of it and potentially opt to ride their coattails later.

If anything’s clear in Illinois, it’s that THE FIGHT is going to go the distance there.

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Kevin McGrady

Legislative and Politics Beat Writer: Kevin McGrady practiced corporate law in New York City for eight years before moving to Las Vegas in 2008 to join the gaming industry. Kevin is a graduate of New York University and Columbia University School of Law.
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