Online poker legalization gains momentum, additional supporters
The past few weeks have seen a flurry of Internet poker legalization activity, with more states considering the controversial business and some major casino operators anteing into the pot by announcing partnerships with poker networks.
Hawaii is the latest state to launch an online poker initiative, according to Hawaii News Now. A bill introduced by State Representative Angus McKelvey, (D-Lahaina) seeks to establish land-based poker tournaments and online poker play. Rep. McKelvey reportedly introduced the bill to compensate for the projected 45 percent decline in the post earthquake and tsunami Japanese tourism trade.
Meanwhile, in Nevada, legislators are currently debating the recently introduced AB 258, which would create a legal framework for regulating online poker within the state. Supporters of the measure cited a study that estimated online poker legalization would provide a $1.8 billion impact to Nevada, and $50 million to $60 million in direct gaming tax revenue. William Horne (D-Las Vegas), the assemblyman who authored AB 258, said that is offers the state a chance to become the corporate headquarters for online poker companies in the United States.
Major Nevada casino operators, however, have held back support on AB 258, instead continuing to push for federal recognition of online poker and other forms of Internet wagering, according to the Los Angeles Times.
This stance has not stopped Nevada-based casino operators from making alliances with online gaming companies. Nevada gaming regulators recently approved a partnership between Caesars Entertainment and 888 Holdings, operators of online casino in the United Kingdom, which clears the way for 888 Holdings to offer Web sites with the Caesars Entertainment brand.
Wynn Resorts announced it has entered a strategic relationship with PokerStars, a popular online poker site, to push for federal recognition of Internet wagering. If and when such legislation passes, the parties will jointly operate an online poker site tentatively called PokerStarsWynn.com.
"After much study, we are convinced that the lack of regulation of Internet gaming within the U.S. must change,” said Wynn Resorts Chairman and CEO Stephen A. Wynn in a prepared statement. “We must recognize that this activity is occurring and that law enforcement does not have the tools to stop it. As a company that has safely conducted gaming in the U.S. for more than 40 years, we believe that the same can be done for poker on the internet.”
Wynn Resorts is not the only company to recently ink a deal with an online poker supplier. Fertitta Interactive, the online arm of the family-owned company that created the Station Casino franchise, has signed a deal with FullTilt Poker that is similar to the Wynn Resorts/PokerStars arrangement. If Internet poker play is federally recognized, the two companies would jointly launch an online poker site, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Legislatures in Iowa, California, Washington D.C., and Florida are also considering measures to legalize Internet poker.