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Nevada eyes remote betting

May 14, 2002 9:12 AM

Ready . . . set . . . bet: Remote wagering is heading for Nevada.

Blackjack on Palm Pilots, sports action via kiosks and in-room gaming are a few of the options that state regulators will discuss this week as Nevada delves deeper into the realm of virtual casinos.

With federal regulations barring interstate betting, the smart money says that the Nevada Gaming Commission will approve intrastate field tests of remote wagering. The commission meets Thursday in Las Vegas.

"We’ve had this (interactive gaming) law for more than a year and it’s time to move to the next step,’’ says Richard Fitzpatrick, head of the Las Vegas-based Interactive Gaming Institute. "By having field tests in Nevada, we can get the networks ready.’’

Station Casinos, among others, already offers remote sports betting via dial-up modem. And other closed-loop systems are in development. Expanding to broadband Internet delivery, bettors could watch horse races and other contests.

"if it’s going to be available, we want to be involved," Station chief financial officer Glenn Christenson said last week, confirming the company’s desire to stay at the forefront of the tech curve.

Slot route operators such as Southwest Gaming and Herbst Gaming are said to be jostling for position as advances in kiosk technology set the stage for live sports wagering in grocery stores and local taverns.

Remote betting is a potential boon to high-speed Internet providers such as Sprint and Cox, which operates the in-room Hospitality Network. The companies are expected to make a strong pitch for any intrastate tests.

Content providers, many of them from Europe, are also eager to get into the loop. Orbis Technology of London has formed a partnership with WagerWorks, which, in turn, has a strategic alliance with MGM Mirage. Alea, a division of Norway’s TeleNor, is another strong player, Fitzpatrick said.

VirtGame’s recent link-up with the Las Vegas-based NetBooth gives those companies an early edge in developing kiosk-based betting. And industry analysts are bullish on the concept.

"You’ve already got attendants at slot outlets. They can be watching to make sure that a 16-year-old isn’t putting money on a Pistons game,’’ said one.

Proponents want some sort of action before the next legislative session.