If Nevada is going to be the dominant state for Internet gambling, it’s going to have to make some tough decisions about where it should go from here.
Two companies — Station Casinos and Caesars Entertainment — are dealing virtual cards in online poker games under their respective Ultimate Poker and World Series of Poker brands. Others are expected to join the poker party in the weeks ahead.
In New Jersey, six casinos began live online poker games last month, and the state has promised to offer other casino games, including blackjack, roulette and slot machines, in the future. Gov. Chris Christie vows the state also will have online sports wagering some day, but that will be decided in court.
While Nevada was the first state to offer online poker, New Jersey’s larger population puts it in a position to be more successful.
Nevada’s growth strategy is to enter gambling compacts with other states that would allow for a broader online poker player base. Right now, it’s a small club with Delaware and New Jersey as the only members, but other states are considering poker games too.
Nevada’s online gaming legislation doesn’t specify that Nevada must offer poker only. That was a policy decision state leaders made because it appeared that was the only game to have any chance of winning approval nationally. That, of course, hasn’t happened and as a recent congressional hearing demonstrated, it is no closer today than it was two years ago.
Nevada has a jump in sports wagering since the state’s top race and sports books have upgraded their technology to make it possible to place sports bets with smartphones.
The state’s best bet for expanding online gaming is to explore offering other casino games.
That’s bound to be a sticky debate because the industry is divided on the appropriateness of offering online poker. One side says online poker whets the appetite of players who will seek out the virtual experience in live poker rooms.
But there are well-financed voices of opposition.
In that congressional hearing, Las Vegas Sands executive Andy Abboud argued against legalizing Internet poker nationwide, and there’s little doubt Sands would lobby against the expansion of online gaming in the state.
While Sands opposes online poker, its sports book partner, CT Technology, the new name of the former Cantor Gaming, is all about mobile sports wagering.
MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment are proponents of online poker, particularly on a national basis, but it remains to be seen how aggressively they’d back adding games online.
Steve Wynn seems satisfied watching from the sidelines.
It’s difficult to say, because our state always has been lead dog in the gaming world, but it’s time we follow New Jersey’s lead.
It’s time for Nevada to go all in on Internet gaming.