Anyone residing in the US state of Nevada who has an interest in online poker is surely aware that the Silver State is not only acquiesce to the concept of a regulated online poker market, but that it was the very first state to launch a legal, real-money online poker site in the US. Online poker laws in Nevada are incredibly dense, and restrict not just how operators can present their products, but also how players can take part in those services.
One area of Nevada’s online poker laws that may not be perfectly clear to card gaming enthusiasts is the restricted variety of online poker sites they can play at. Just because online poker has been legalized doesn’t mean that Nevadans are welcome to visit any poker site of their choice and toss chips to their heart’s content.
Prior to Black Friday, most Americans had that privilege, but since law makers adopted online poker laws in Nevada in December of 2011, just one day after the US Department of Justice reversed its opinion that the Wire Act prohibited online poker across the nation, residents of (and visitors to) the Silver State are limited to playing only at poker sites regulated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.
Legality of Online Poker Nevada
Gambling has been legal in Nevada since the 1930’s, and we all know how immaculately well that market has exploded in and around the Las Vegas area. It is considered the gambling capitol of the world, and ever since the 1990’s, when the online gaming industry was born, live casino operators in Nevada have been itching to get their fingers into what has become a multibillion dollar industry. Unfortunately, year after year, the federal government insisted that it was illegal. The moment Nevada had the option to legalize and regulate online poker, they did so.
Ultimate Poker was the first regulated site to launch in the state—in the US for that matter—in April of 2013. WSOP.com followed in September of that year. Since then, South Point launched RealGaming.com, while Ultimate Poker ended up shuttering its virtual doors for good. Now, WSOP Nevada entertains over 95% of Nevada’s online poker market.
Let’s review the online poker laws of Nevada and see just how operators, and players, are expected to conduct themselves. We’ll examine the legislation that governs the state’s internet poker market, then briefly discuss expansion via interstate compacts with other states, and what that means for Nevadans.
Nevada Revised Statutes – Online Poker
The following online poker laws are taken from the Regulations of the Nevada Gaming Commission and State Gaming Control Board. Please note that some text has been omitted or abridged to maintain fluency and relevancy, but the meaning has not been altered.
Regulation 5A: Operation of Interactive Gaming
Authorized Player: means a person who has registered with the operator of interactive gaming to engage in interactive gaming.
Operator of Interactive Gaming / Operator: means a person who operates interactive gaming. An operator of interactive gaming who is granted a license by the commission is a licensee.
Poker: means the traditional game of poker, and any derivative of the game of poker as approved by chairman and published on the board’s website, wherein two or more players play against each other and wager on the value of their hands. For purposes of interactive gaming, poker is not a banking game.
Note: This next section is taken from a document published by the UNLV Center for Gaming Research, which is drawn directly from the original legislation, but explains the actual literature of Regulation 5A in a more clear and concise manner.
Internet Controls and House Rules: Specifically, what do you need to do to get licensed (see Regulations 5A.070):
1. Maintain online security and confidentiality of player accounts
2. Register players and verify their identities. The procedures must be “robust and redundant” to mitigate the risks of non face-to-face transactions. Registration can be in person or remotely.
3. Ensuring play is between humans only (no bots)
4. Preventing collusion among human players
5. Allowing players to self-exclude
Player Registration: When registering, a player must provide (see Regulations 5A.110):
1. Proof of identity
2. A date of birth to prove age over 21
3. Physical address
4. Social Security Number, if a U.S. resident
5. Proof that not previously excluded, or on the Commission’s banned list (the Black Book)
Before registering, a player must affirm:
1. They provided true and accurate information about the above
2. They have been told the house rules
3. They are prohibited from letting anyone else use their account
4. They can’t gamble from a jurisdiction where it is illegal to do so
5. If the operator cannot verify their identity, they forfeit all winnings and are refunded all deposits
6. Consent to monitoring—all transactions are recorded
Reserve Requirements (125): AKA, the “we don’t want the DOJ calling our operation a pyramid scheme” section. All operators must maintain a cash, credit, or bond reserve equal to the sum of all of the funds in player accounts
Compensation (see Regulations 5A.135): This limits the rake to 10% of the pot
Wagers (see Regulations 5A.140): Players can only have one seat in a game at a time. They can’t set up multiple accounts with fictitious names, but they don’t have to use their real name at the table. Operators can’t use shill accounts. Players can’t transfer money to each other. There is to be no credit given, either through the site or via the operator’s affiliates.
What does it all mean?
It simply means that yes, online poker is legal in Nevada, but players may only participate from within the borders of the state, and only at internet poker sites operating in and licensed by the state. They must irrefutably verify their identity and eligibility to play, and they will never have to worry about these online poker rooms pulling off a big Ponzi scheme, like the former Full Tilt Poker did leading up to the Black Friday of Online Poker in April, 2011.
Is Nevada working to expand into interstate online poker?
Yes! Entertaining a Constitutional loophole that could allow states to enter compacts without requiring federal regulation, Nevada and Delaware undertook the task of scripting an interstate compact to share online poker liquidity. It was signed by their respective governors back in February of 2014. It took just over a year for the software to be developed, approved and launched.
In March 2015, Nevada and Delaware began pooling players across all 888-powered poker sites, which include all 3 of Delaware’s poker rooms—Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway—and WSOP.com in Nevada.