Nevada AG Laxalt Angers Governor, Regulators With Anti-Online Gambling Stance

Dec.06, 2016 11:47:AM
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    Nevada Online Gambling fight

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has angered numerous people in power in the Silver State.

Ralston Reports recently suggested more than one person is irked by Laxalt’s latest move regarding online gambling. He signed a letter imploring President-elect Donald Trump and his staff to help spearhead legislation explicitly reaffirming the Wire Act covers online gambling. Such an act would make online gambling illegal nationwide.

Laxalt’s position on gambling not unexpected

This is far from the first time Gov. Brian Sandoval and Laxalt have butted heads over online gambling. About a year ago Laxalt came out against online gambling. He expressed a desire to return to the “status quo” and cited his concerns over the source of the money being deposited on the sites.

Sandoval immediately expressed disappointment with Laxalt’s stance back then. The governor is experienced with gambling issues, having previously served as the chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. “I am very concerned that anyone representing the state’s legal interests would speak out against current state law in our leading industry,” Sandoval stated last year.

Both Sandoval and current Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman AG Burnett disagreed with Laxalt. They did not agree that federal action would cut down on offshore sites offering online poker and casino games. If anything, they feared the law would leave state-regulated gambling on the outside looking in, while offshore sites grew even stronger.

Who is mad at Laxalt this time?

Ralston Reports did not have direct quotes from Sandoval. The site did speak with sources in his camp who confirmed Laxalt acted without consulting Sandoval’s office though.

Burnett went on the record. “Internet gaming in Nevada has been a complete regulatory success. We’ve had no issues with patron protection or ensuring it is done to the letter of the law. I’m disappointed Mr Laxalt didn’t consult with his clients on this,” he said.

It also comes just as MGM Resorts went live with a statewide rollout of online casino tournaments for real money.

After the article was tweeted out, Robert Uithoven, a friend of Laxalt, hinted at why Laxalt is not so keen on state online gambling:

Uithoven is a long-time Las Vegas Sands lobbyist, meaning he is on the side of long-time online gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson.

Does Laxalt have a point?

Many have criticized some of the statements in the recently penned letter. The suggestion that underage gaming is a cause for concern even in a regulated environment has generated a lot of attention.

WSOP.com Head of Poker Bill Rini offers some insight into just how effective age restrictions have been in New Jersey and Nevada:

“The safeguards put in place by NV and NJ regulators have been very effective in preventing underage gaming,” Rini said. “What makes online gaming unique is that we can leverage technology to help gateway our product from people who shouldn’t be playing.

“We are required to collect certain identifying information before wagering is permitted which we then match to public databases to determine with a high degree of confidence that the person is who they say they are.”

The unspoken issues about online poker in Nevada underperforming financial expectations is one that is easier for Laxalt to defend.

Nevada regulators no longer report revenue for online poker. When Ultimate Poker shuttered its operations in 2014, there were no longer enough operators to merit tracking such information.

In the early days of online poker in the state, monthly revenue exceeded $1 million only once. With Ultimate gone and WSOP NV holding a virtual monopoly, it is fair to assume numbers are not booming. Recent estimates from PokerScout report traffic for ring games on WSOP.com at 160 concurrent players.

When Nevada legalized online poker, it was done so based on revenue estimates that far exceeded actual performance. Laxalt is right to point to this.

However one could also suggest part of the reason online poker has not taken off is because of the political uncertainty surrounding it thanks to letters just like the one he sent to the new administration.

   
Jessica Welman
Jessica Welman is a poker media veteran, having served as the managing editor for WSOP.com, a tournament reporter for the WPT, and a co-host of a Poker Road podcast. A graduate of USC and Indiana University, she can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.
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