What's Next After Nevada Legalizes Online Interstate Gaming

(Image credit: Julie Jacobson/AP Photo)

Now that Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed legislation legalizing online interstate gaming, what's next for online poker fans in the United States?

The state's legislators and Sandoval rushed to pass and sign AB114 on Thursday, authorizing Nevada to enter into compacts with other states to offer Internet poker, ahead of New Jersey's similar efforts.

On Feb. 7, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had vetoed an online gambling bill but could sign another version next week.

U.S. online gambling nearly halted after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was implemented.

But the Department of Justice issued a letter in 2011 stating that the federal Wire Act of 1961 only applies to sports betting.

With passage of Nevada's new legislation, "the U.S. online gambling industry has been reborn," said Ken LaMance, attorney and managing editor for the LegalMatch Law Library.

Nevada's bill removes a state provision that requires federal legislation or approval from the Department of Justice before online gaming licenses are made active. The legislation requires the Nevada Gaming Commission to adopt regulations authorizing Gov. Sandoval to make the agreements with other states.

LaMance said he expects New Jersey to pass similar legislation in the coming weeks.

"The only question now is how many other U.S. states will pass similar online gambling legislation allowing online gambling companies to operate in their state, or allow their citizens to participate in this online gambling in Nevada or New Jersey," LaMance said.

What does this all mean for poker fans and other states?

"We're currently in unchartered waters," LaMance said.

A few states have passed legislation prohibiting residents from engaging in online gambling, like Illinois and Louisiana but, LaMance said, that could change. However, the federal government can pass its own regulations that would preempt state law, including that of Nevada.

"But this seems unlikely since the federal government has traditionally left gambling regulation to the individual states," he said.

LaMance said legislation and enforcement have previously only targeted online companies, not individuals, from engaging in online gambling.

"With the large number of online companies likely sprouting up in Nevada, online gambling players are going to have abundant options, with the added security of knowing their money is stored domestically and not in some questionable offshore account," he said.

The Nevada law authorizes private companies to operate online gambling sites in Nevada after they pay the state a fee. Certain companies that have been operating illegal online gambling companies will be barred from participation for five years, after which they can apply for a license.

"There is so much money at stake that I anticipate there will be a tidal wave of new companies entering this very lucrative market," LaMance said.