Nevada Ups the Ante

13 December 2000
Internet gambling appears to be gaining support among New Jersey and Nevada legislators, and you might even say that the race is on. Last month word got out that a New Jersey assemblyman is planning to introduce a regulatory bill. This week, we've learned that something's cooking in Nevada as well.

The aforementioned New Jersey bill, currently being drafted by Assemblyman Tony Impreveduto, would permit land-based casinos in that state to offer online gambling services.

Out west, it has just been revealed that Nevada Assemblywoman Merle Berman is drafting legislation that would legalize and regulate Internet gambling in her state. The Nevada bill could be finished by this week so that it can be added to the roll of bills being considered in the Nevada legislature this year, although IGN has been unable to confirm this.

Impreveduto's bill, meanwhile is also supposed to be brought before the state legislature during the upcoming 2001 session.

Further, in the midst of researching these new bills, IGN has stumbled upon a third piece of Internet gambling legislation which was introduced in New Jersey this year by state Senator John Bennett. The bill, SR 48, is a resolution "urging the United States Congress to regulate Internet gambling."

In part, the bill says,

This Senate resolution urges Congress to enact legislation which would regulate Internet gambling and restrict access to Internet gambling operations by minors. Studies have indicated that gambling is associated with devastating economic and societal costs and that an increase in gambling activity due to ease of access and participation through the Internet may substantially increase problems arising from gambling. Furthermore, minors who would otherwise be unable to participate in gambling activities may be particularly susceptible to gambling related problems as a result of the easy access to such activity.

This resolution supports legislation that would regulate the industry in such a way that the problems associated with gambling, and juvenile access to gambling, may be curtailed.

Do any of these bills stand a chance of passing? Former New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director Frank Catania gives them a 50/50 chance and acknowledges that a lot will depend upon the outcome of the federal legislation. (Although the Senate version of the federal prohibition effort managed to pass, the House version of that bill has failed to succeed despite several revisions. Some experts believe that support for Capitol Hill to prohibit Internet gambling is waning.)

On the other hand, American Gaming Association Chairman Frank Fahrenkopf warns: "Don't hold your breath."

Brian Sandoval, the Nevada Gaming Commission chairman, added, "I don't know if the Nevada bill is such a good idea."

Sandoval indicated that he would certainly like to have some input regarding regulatory issues, "if the bill comes to fruition." He remains cautious about Internet gambling in Nevada, seeing a number of inherent problems, like protecting problem gamblers from overextending themselves, and keeping out underage cyber-gamblers.

"I'm not too sure that the state of Utah really wants us offering gambling to its residents," he added.

While acknowledging that land-based casinos are unable to prevent all problems, Sandoval pointed out, for example, that it's easy to see when a 12-year-old tries to gamble in a land-based casino. It would be much harder to prevent such obvious problems happening in people's homes when people bet over the Internet.

Despite these new state bills cropping up, Representative Bob Goodlatte's office remains optimistic about the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act's chance of succeeding. "Historically our support has come from the state attorneys generals," explained spokeswoman Michelle Semones. Goodlatte, she added, believes that his prohibition bill is necessary, as Internet gambling is an illegal activity.

It's interesting to note that New Jersey and Nevada are home to the largest concentration of casinos in the United States, and were the only spots where Americans could gamble legally at casinos before Indian casinos and gambling boats were permitted. Should the bills pass, it's likely to impact other states stances regarding Internet gambling, as their gambling and lottery industries will need to remain competitive.

With the state bills scheduled for consideration soon, as well as another presentation of Goodlatte's prohibition effort, 2001could be a definitive year for Internet gambling in the United States. As the current year comes to a close, most of the industry is hoping that the New Year brings new regulatory oversight instead of prohibition.

Don't get your hopes to high though. As Assemblyman Impreveduto acknowledged, regulated Internet gambling based in the United States "may be an idea before its time."

Click here to read New Jersey S.R. 48.