Internet meeting on tap

Jun 5, 2001 7:16 AM

Techies, casino operators and state regulators will be meeting this month to begin figuring how best to usher Nevada into the brave new world of online gaming.

About the time Gov. Kenny Guinn puts his signature on enabling legislation passed by the state Senate on Monday, representatives of the three groups will hold their first formal conference to try to work out what promises to be a daunting series of legal and regulatory challenges. Attorney Anthony Cabot, an Internet gaming expert with Nevada-based Lionel Sawyer & Collins, is scheduled to moderate.

That’s the word from Richard Fitzpatrick, whose recently formed Internet Business Alliance of Nevada suddenly finds itself in the spotlight now that the state’s casinos have a legislative basis for establishing the first legal online gaming sites in the U.S.

"We’re going to do a number of meetings," says Fitzpatrick, whose tech association has already formed ties with the Nevada Gaming Control Board and some of the state’s major casino operators.

The June meeting will set the stage for what he calls "a major event" in September to begin walking prospective operators through the developing licensing process. Cabot is also being sought to host that meeting.

"We want to put together a set of standards and present them to the gaming community, and what that will do is enable this whole thing to get done a whole lot quicker," he says.

The measure, which passed the Assembly in April, gives the Nevada Gaming Commission the power to develop regulations and safeguards to ensure that the casinos’ online sites comply with existing state and federal law and will take bets only from jurisdictions where online gaming is legal. The regulators must also be satisfied that the technology can provide a "reasonable assurance" that minors will be prevented from accessing the sites. The measure also sets licensing fees ranging from $500,000 for operators to $50,000 for manufacturers of peripheral equipment and requires the sites to pay the state’s 6.25 percent tax on gaming revenues.

"This is a new industry, a new time for Nevada gaming," said a jubilant Merle Berman, the Las Vegas Republican who sponsored the original bill in the Assembly. "It was a hard-fought victory. And I think we will see growth in Internet gaming like we’ve never seen before."