THE FIGHT: Signs of Life to Start 2013

It’s been a quiet few weeks on the regulatory front, with most state legislatures adjourned for the holidays or, in the case of the feds, grappling with bigger issues. But time waits for no man, so even while many of us were ringing in the New Year with champagne and friends, there were a few regulatory developments across the U.S.

In late December, out in California, state senator Roderick Wright introduced the latest bill that would legalize intrastate online poker. It’s unclear how soon the legislature will hold hearings on the bill, SB51, the Internet Gambling Consumer Protection and Public-Private Partnership Act of 2013. We’re probably looking at a long, slow slog through the Golden State’s political apparatus.

Getting a high-population state like California on board with regulated online poker would be a huge boon for the industry, as it could spur other states to act similarly. Unfortunately, the California gaming industry hasn’t been able to come up with a unified front to press its case with the legislature. The loudest dissents have come from state Indian tribes. Given that SB51 is identical to a bill introduced in 2012, those headaches don’t rate to go away any time soon.

On the other side of the country, the New Jersey state legislature approved bill A-2578, authorizing intrastate online gaming, just before Christmas. That bill has been sitting on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk ever since. To date there’s been no word on whether Christie is leaning towards signing it or vetoing it. The good money has to be on “signing it”, given the sorry state of New Jersey’s casino industry right now. Yet as someone who aspires to national office, Christie need to be careful not to alienate his conservative base by expanding online gambling.

The governor has until February 3 to make his decision. Expect him to use most of his time.

Finally, and most recently, Nevada moved to amend its intrastate online gaming law to permit multi-state compacts for purposes of pooling players. We’ve expected that amendment ever since the U.S. Department of Justice reversed its position on the applicability of the Wire Act to online gaming other than sports betting in late 2011. There’s nothing controversial about the proposed changes; they should be passed easily. Once that happens, Gov. Brian Sandoval likely will move quickly to sign player-pooling agreements with Delaware and New Jersey, assuming that Gov. Christie doesn’t veto A-2578.

They’re not much, but overall these three developments aren’t a bad way to start 2013.

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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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