For all its struggles, hardships and scandals, Las Vegas has cemented its legacy as the most renowned gambling destination in the world. From the days when The Flamingo , Bugsy Siegel and organized crime ruled the strip to the megaresort era ushered in by Steve Wynn and The Mirage, Las Vegas has been at the forefront of the gambling industry for the greater part of the last century.
So it really comes as little surprise that Nevada would be the most proactive state in the push for legalized online poker.
Mere months after Black Friday decimated the United States online poker industry, Nevada was already on the fast track to bringing the beloved industry back – only this time, in a way that would benefit state government and players alike. Government’s vision came to fruition in 2013, when the state’s first regulated poker room was opened to the masses. Thus hailed a new era for online poker – one which has since rapidly begun to pick up steam.
Can Players from Nevada Play Real-Money Online Poker?
Absolutely – Nevada was the first US state to roll-out a regulated Internet poker industry. At the present time, the Silver State features three poker rooms with a fourth operated by 888 Holdings  pending. They are:
Although Ultimate Poker was the first site to hit the market, WSOP’s superior client software and associated brand recognition has propelled it to Nevada’s top spot. Unique to Nevada’s market is that whereas most online poker networks struggle during the summer months, online poker traffic in Nevada thrives. Of course, this might have something to do with the world’s largest annual tournament poker event being held at the Rio from late-May to July.
Nevada law requires that in order to play on one of its regulated sites, players be physically located in the state and recognized by geo-targeting technology. Also, players and operators alike must abide by stringent regulations set forth by the Nevada Gaming Commission .
Of course, for those currently not residing in the United States, traveling to Vegas to mix it up online is not always an option. The good news is that there’s a ton of poker sites catering to non-US citizens.
Is Online Poker Legal in Nevada?
Yes, in so long as you play on one of the aforementioned sites, you are acting in full accordance with the law. With regards to playing at unsolicited locations, the legality becomes a bit murkier. And operating an illicit gambling ring is simply not tolerated.
After all, Nevada lives and dies by the performance of it gambling industry. You wouldn’t just expect them to let unregulated operations run them over?
Nevada law defines gambling as:
Gaming or gambling means to deal, operate, carry on, conduct, maintain or expose for play any game as defined in NRS 463.0152, or to operate an inter-casino linked system.
Ok, so what does 463.0152 define as a
Game or gambling game means any game played with cards, dice, equipment, or any mechanical, electromechanical or electronic device or machine for property, checks, credit or any representative of value, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, faro, monte, roulette, keno, bingo, fan-tan, twenty-one, blackjack…….craps, poker…., but does not include games played with cards in private home or residences in which no person makes money for operating the game, except as a player, or games operated by charitable or educational organizations which are approved by the board pursuant to the provisions of NRS 463.409.
Wow, that’s quite a mouthful. Three things to note:
- Nevada law makes no differentiation between games of luck or skill, nor is the skill factor even addressed. Also, poker is specifically included as a prohibited game.
- The law appears to apply to operators only.
- A social and charitable gambling exception is built into the statute.
Operators who run an underground gambling ring in Nevada are subject to harsher penalties than almost anywhere in the US, with those convicted guilty of a
category B felony. Sentences carry at minimum a year behind bars or a fine up to $50,000.
Surprisingly, Nevada takes a fairly strong stance against the associates of those involved in illegal gambling activities as well as cheaters. Although it appears that on an individual playing level, cheating is the only way mere players are considered in violation of the law.
Nevada is one of a handful of states that defines online gambling – NRS 463.016425:
Interactive gaming means the conduct of gambling games through the use of communications technology that allows a person, utilizing money, checks….to transmit to a computer information to assist in the placing of a bet or wager and corresponding information related to the display of the game, game outcomes or other similar information.
Section 465.093 states that
placing, sending, transmitting or relaying wagers to another person is in violation of the law, as is operating
interactive gambling. Based on this we can surmise that offshore poker rooms are in violation of the law, but players on these sites are not. The penalty for running an unregulated interactive gaming operation is a misdemeanor.
In short, stick to the regulated sites and non-raked home games.
But don’t just take our word for it. For a more thorough understanding of Nevada gambling law, it is recommended that you consult a legal authority, versed in such matters.
- December 2011: The Nevada Gaming Commission authorizes intrastate online poker regulations . Proposed regulations pass by unanimous vote, paving the way for companies licensed in Nevada to submit applications.
- June 2012: The first licenses are issued to Bally Technologies and International Game Technologies
- February 21, 2013: Both houses of government elect to pass AB 114, effectively legalizing regulated Internet poker in Nevada . It also allows for interstate compacts to be forged with other states. The bill is signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval on the very same day that it passes through the Assembly and Senate.
- April 30, 2013: UltimatePoker.com deals the first hand of legal online poker in U.S. history.
- September 19, 2013: WSOP.com becomes the state’s second iPoker site, and within months would become the state’s market share leader – a lead that would only expand in summer 2014.
- February 25, 2014: Nevada enters into a liquidity sharing agreement with Delaware. The Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement is the first of its kind, and is designed to bolster online poker traffic in smaller states.
Nevada Gambling History
Needless to say, Nevada possesses one of, if not the most, storied histories of gambling in the world. Which is why it’s hard to believe that less than 100 years ago, gambling was strictly prohibited.
The Great Depression and the construction of the Hoover Dam in the early 1930’s would change all that. As workers (most of them single males) flooded into Nevada, the need for grand scale entertainment grew. Combine this with government’s need of a new revenue stream and the state’s gambling era was born. By the end of 1931, not only was the first gambling license issued to the Northern Club, but hotels, paved roads and traffic lights were propping up all over Las Vegas.
But it wouldn’t be until the post-war economic boom of the late-1940’s that tourists would begin making their way to the fabled city in droves. By 1954, Vegas was attracting 8 million annual visitors. And in 1959 the Nevada Gaming Commission was established to regulate the rapidly burgeoning gambling industry.
More resorts would open in the 1960’s and 70’s but the next true popularity explosion wouldn’t hit until 1989, when Steve Wynn built The Mirage.
megaresort, The Mirage ushered in a new era in Las Vegas’ gambling history – one that was no longer dominated by the mob. Throughout the 90s and 2000s megaresorts would prop up like they were going out of style, with the Rio opening in 1990, followed by the Bellagio in 1998, the Wynn in 2005 and Encore in 2008.
Of late, Vegas has struggled, with year-over-year revenues from February 2013 to February 2014 down approximately 13.7 percent. Of the $926 million won by casinos, only $824,000 of that was accounted for by online poker .
Regulated Gambling Options in Nevada
As the only state that doesn’t restrict gambling to specific locations, Nevada boasts by far the most real money wagering options in the nation. In fact, Nevada’s land-based casino industry is so strong that lawmakers never authorized a statewide lottery, as they feared it would impact brick and mortar casino revenues.
Otherwise, alternative forms of gambling authorized by the state include pari-mutuel wagering, charitable gambling, and tribal gaming.
Future of Regulated Online Gambling in Nevada
As a standalone market, Nevada’s iGaming industry is probably as big as it’s going to get. Its population of 2.8 million is simply not big enough to sustain a flourishing community.
With that said, Nevada is one of the few markets to experience net traffic gains during the summer months. And with the framework for interstate compacts already being laid, it’s possible that players will start taking more interest in the state’s iPoker rooms.
Just don’t expect its compact with Delaware to result in a substantial volume boost.