May 30, 2001 8:45 PM

With time running out on the 2001 legislative session, a Nevada lawmaker has proclaimed that the push for online gaming is not dead yet.

"There are five more game days left, and before showing my hand, there are still some cards to be dealt," said Assemblywoman Merle Berman (R-Las Vegas) in a statement broadcast over the Internet on Tuesday, the day after an online gaming bill was removed from a scheduled floor vote in the Senate.

Berman is the original sponsor of a bill to give Nevada's casinos a leg up on the competition should online gaming be accepted as legal in the U.S.

The bill, as currently written, would authorize the Nevada Gaming Commission to develop rules and safeguards for regulated gambling sites to be operated by existing casinos. The bill establishes size-limits for casinos wishing to participate in online gaming and sets taxes and licensing fees for operators and manufacturers of the necessary systems and software.

The bill passed the Assembly after some political wrangling last month. However, it is on life support in the Senate and fading fast, the apparent victim of political infighting in the upper house.

The bill was scheduled for a vote in the Senate on Monday then suddenly removed over the weekend. Sen. Mark James (R-Las Vegas), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, which released the bill to the Senate floor on May 21, called it "a casualty of the machinations of the legislative process."

Berman said the bill was removed to give lawmakers time to work out various amendments.

If the bill is to be saved, however, it will take some fancy 11th-hour footwork. The Legislature adjourns June 4 and does not meet again until 2003.