A Resurrection in the Desert

1 June 2001
Anyone who spoke to Nevada Assemblywoman Merle Berman in the last couple of days knew that she had something up her sleeve, but she wasn't about to reveal her hand.

With just three days left in the legislative schedule, Berman and others who support a bill that would legalize online gambling showed what they hope is their trump card.

Berman refuted Tuesday's reports claiming AB 578 was dead, and she was proved correct today when the bill received a "resurrection waiver" from legislative leadership.

According to reports, casino lobbyists--namely the Nevada Resort Association--requested the waiver. The move is a little-known procedure that can be used to revive bills that have been left for dead.

Just days ago, there wasn't much optimism for the bill's future, but Berman remained steadfast in her position that the measure would pass.

The fate of the bill seemed doomed to many when a Monday deadline wasn't met. It was by then that all bills passed in the Assembly had to be put up for vote in the Senate and vice versa.

AB 578 was the victim of some political maneuvering and never made its way off of the Senate Secretary's desk for vote.

Berman told IGN that the continued adding of amendments was making supporters increasingly skeptical. "It seemed that anybody who had a gaming interest back in their district wanted to add something to the bill," Berman said.

While she expressed her frustration with the process, Berman was adamant that the bill would survive. She said the guts of the original bill, which would legalize online gaming and setup the tax structure for the industry, could be added as a chapter of another bill, as long as someone from the judiciary committee in either house proposes it.

She also hinted that she had other options available to her, but she wasn't about to show her hand.

"We are working on some things right now as we speak," she said on Tuesday. "I can't say what they are, but this will get passed."

Berman was unavailable for comment today, but speculation is that one of those options included the resurrection waiver.

It's unclear at this point if the "resurrected bill" will include the amendments or just the original portion of the bill.

If the bill is passed, the Nevada State Gaming Control Board and the Gaming Commission would draft the rules and regulations for Internet gambling.

The bill also contains wording that would prohibit online gaming until the federal government gives Nevada the OK. Currently the Justice Department says Internet gambling is illegal due to the Wire Act of 1961. There are various appeals currently in the federal courts, and Nevada regulators have said that they would wait to enact any legislation until a clearer picture is produced on the national level.

The bill also calls for safeguards ensuring that no minors are entering virtual casinos and that players who live in states where online gaming is illegal are blocked.

The bill would permit "resort hotels" with unrestricted licenses to apply to conduct Internet gambling. But the resorts must put up $500,000 when applying for a two-year license.

A manufacturer of an interactive gaming device would pay a $250,000 license fee; a $100,000 fee would be assessed against a manufacturer of equipment associated with a gaming device; and a $50,000 fee would be assessed for a license of a manufacturer of peripheral equipment.

Casinos would pay a 6 percent tax on the gross win from the Internet.

If the bill is passed it'll likely be 18-24 months before any operator launches a site from Nevada.