The Nevada Gaming Commission met on Friday to discuss options for implementing an intrastate gambling system for the state, and most of those involved in the process are confident it will happen sooner rather than later.
The exact form it will take remains unclear, but Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander says some boundaries are in place.
"The commission took no formal action, but we had a very good dialogue between regulators and those in the private sector that have a good grasp of these issues," Neilander explained. "We know that we don't want expansion into private areas like hotel rooms just yet. There are control issues there with underage gaming, and surveillance becomes a concern because you can't very well set up surveillance cameras in someone's hotel room."
In-room gaming is one of several concepts considered since the passing of a bill in 2001 enabling the commission to create regulations for online gambling should certain criteria be met. Other possibilities include an advance deposit wagering (ADW) system (similar to the one used in California) and gaming kiosks strategically placed in non-gaming areas of casinos (such as restaurants, bars and pools).
Victor Gallo, Youbet.com's general manager in Nevada, was on hand Friday to present the case for ADW. Gallo is playing a key roll in getting Youbet approved as an ADW provider in Nevada and believes it could happen within six months.
"[The commission] acknowledged that what we do is perfectly legal within the intrastate structure," Gallo said, "but they want to take baby steps, and we certainly understand their position."
Unlike California, Nevada could limit its a ADW system (at least in the short term) to telephone wagering.
"[Nevada's] approach is not as broad as I would have liked, but it isn't as narrow as I had feared it could have been," Gallo said. "But I think they will find that the baby steps will incite the faster, bigger steps, which will eventually lead to Internet betting."
I-gaming technology specialist Tony Fontaine predicts that intrastate gaming will be allowed in Nevada within a year.
"They could have the regulations initialized within a month, and then it would have to go to the commission, which could take three or four months," said Fontaine, who attended the meeting as a consultant to the American Pari-mutuel Wagering Association (APWA) . "So it could become a reality in six months or so."
Like Gallo, Fontaine is hopeful the APWA and others can convince regulators to include Internet wagering in the mix.
"Right now the regulations don't call for Internet betting, but we are trying to ratify those so that the Internet could be included in it," Fontaine said. "All of our members are for this, and we have had zero opposition from anyone in the traditional gaming space."
Neilander, who doesn't want to talk specifics just yet, said casino-style gaming would probably come first.
"There will probably need to be some amendments made to state statute, but I think we decided we are more comfortable moving in that direction with casino-style gaming right now than we are with anything else," Neilander said. "The remote roulette or blackjack that someone can play while they are sitting poolside or at the bar or even at a restaurant and playing with a handheld device is a good way to test this idea out."
Despite the ever-present competition factor, the overall efforts from those in favor of interactive gambling in Nevada are mainly focused on changing the attitudes of Nevada's operators and regulators.
"The biggest shortcoming in Nevada right now is they (operators and regulators) don't understand what phone and Internet betting can do for them," Gallo said. "I look at it with the branding perspective. Nevada casinos bring in bigger and stronger credibility than anywhere else in the world. The Nevada Gaming Control Board seal of approval carries a lot of weight. But how many MGM Mirage customers come in from Asia for a week or two, and then leave and take their entire handle with them? This could give properties a way to keep that handle and turnover coming in all year long."
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