Nevada passes major gambling legislation

14 June 2011
LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- What were the odds of Gov. Brian Sandoval signing a bill allowing gambling behind closed doors?

To most oddsmakers it was 3-2, as the gaming industry lobbied lawmakers in Carson City to give their customers the option to access their favorite slot machine, table game or sports book on the casino floor or in their hotel rooms.

It's a far cry from the days of small, uncomfortable hotel rooms in Las Vegas, designed to keep guests gambling in the casino instead of sleeping or lounging in their rooms.

"It's really the way the industry is evolving," said David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "I think these bills will help Nevada casinos keep up with changing technologies."

Schwartz said that as more and more commerce and communication move online and on phones, it's only natural that people will want to place bets that way.

Assembly Bill 258, one of two gaming bills signed by the governor, directs the Nevada Gaming Commission to adopt regulations and to grant licenses to casinos to be ready to offer online poker if and when the federal government approves it. Nevada gaming regulators have until January to approve the regulations.

"We are aware of the deadlines for setting up the procedures we must follow for those regulations," Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Peter Bernhard said Monday. "I don't see any difficulty meeting those deadlines."

The bill directs state regulators to set rules that "ensure the protection of consumers, prevent fraud, guard against underage and problem gambling, and aid in law enforcement efforts."

It also requires them to set license fees to operate interactive gaming and for manufacturers and equipment associated with interactive gaming.

The bill says a license for interactive poker may be issued to a resort that has held an unrestricted license for at least five years before the application is filed.

"Nevada has always been a leader in regulating gaming. Defining the regulations beforehand seems appropriate" said Jan Jones, senior vice president of communications and government affairs for Caesars Entertainment Corp.

Jones wouldn't describe either bill as landmark legislation, but said they were part of the continuing "evolution of the industry" in Nevada.

AB 295 allows for the use of mobile gaming devices in hotel rooms or sleeping areas. The bill is seen as an effort by casinos to stay in touch with younger customers who are used to using technology whenever and wherever they like.

Mobile gaming devices that allow casino customers to wager on sporting events or play games at bars, restaurants or in common areas in Nevada resorts are already in use at The Palazzo Resort Hotel Casino, The Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, The Cosmopolitan and M Resort, all Cantor Gaming clients.

The bill, once approved by state gaming regulators, would let device providers such as Cantor alter the range of their eDeck gaming devices so they would also work in hotel rooms.

Cantor President and CEO Lee Amaitis expected the bill to generate a significant uptick in revenue without cannibalizing other sources of gaming revenue. He said the governor's decision to sign the bill was "fantastic" for the gaming industry.

"This is a big step forward," said Amaitis, adding that he expected increased competition from companies looking to supply resorts with tablets and other devices once regulators approve guidelines for in-room gaming.

He declined to discuss possible deals involving Cantor, instead choosing to focus on the almost 7,000 rooms in Las Vegas that are already available to his company.

"We have access to a lot of rooms already," he said of the resorts that already allow digital gaming in public areas.

Amaitis expected to submit his updated eDeck tablets to gaming regulators quickly for their testing and approval. The mobile gaming device with a touch screen is about the size of an iPad and allows customers to play slot games, video poker and table games and wager on sports.

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