Amendments offered Friday on two gambling bills in Nevada

May 7, 2011 7:15 AM

Minor amendments were offered Friday on two gambling bills in Nevada, including AB258, the Internet poker proposal that was gutted by a policy committee earlier this session before being referred to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

The original version of AB258 would have prohibited the Nevada Gaming Commission from denying a license to online poker sites such as PokerStars, the prime backer of the bill, which had operated in a legal gray area for years.

That provision was stripped from the bill last month. As amended, the bill directs the Nevada Gaming Commission to begin drafting rules to regulate online poker, but stipulates that Internet gambling would not be implemented until sanctioned by Congress or the Justice Department.

It also stipulates that online sites would need to have a partnership with an existing non-restricted license holder or an affiliate that has been in business for at least five years.

On Friday, the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said the goal is to have regulations in place "for the inevitable time the federal laws will be changed to allow online gaming in the United States."

Another amendment would give the Gaming Control Board until January 2013 to adopt regulations.

Last month, the founder of PokerStars was among 11 people charged with bank fraud, money laundering and operating illegal gambling businesses. The company has since shut down its real-money, online gambling offerings to U.S. players.

PokerStars, based in the Isle of Man, also contributed $272,000 to Nevada political campaigns in apparent violation of federal law, according to campaign finance disclosures first reported by the Las Vegas Sun. Most Nevada lawmakers and other officials say they were unaware of the company’s foreign status and have since returned contributions.

State law is unclear regarding foreign entities contributions to political campaigns. Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, is pursuing amending an existing bill in the Legislature to clarify Nevada statutes. Brower is a former U.S. attorney for Nevada.

Another bill discussed Friday, AB219, would allow the state to rake in 75 percent of any unredeemed slot machine wagering vouchers that go unclaimed. Those winnings that gamblers forget to cash in are currently kept by casinos, and can amount to $20 million to $50 million annually.

Under the bill, casinos would keep 25 percent of the value.

Pete Ernaut, lobbyist for the Nevada Resort Association, said the average value of unclaimed tickets is $5.50.

"But the accumulation of them turns into real money," he said.

One amendment being drafted would extend from 30 days until six months the time frame after which a voucher is considered un-redeemed. Another specifies that a casino could still honor a voucher from a patron after the expiration date and be credited for taxes paid to the state.