Anyone residing in the state of Nevada with an interest in online poker is probably aware that the Silver State has offered online poker through a state-regulated system for more than a decade. Nevada was not only open to the concept of a regulated online poker market, but it was the very first state to launch a legal, real-money online poker site in the US.

Online poker laws in Nevada are dense and restrict not just how operators can present their products but also how players can use those products.

Prior to Black Friday, most Americans had the privilege of playing on any poker site they could find. At one time, such as in the early to mid-2000s amidst the poker boom,  there were dozens of them to choose from. However, that changed with the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) by Congress in 2006 and then the indictments handed down by US attorneys on Black Friday in 2011.

Nevada took matters into its own hands. After the US Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion in 2011 that declared the Wire Act applicable only to sports betting, Nevada knew that it could legally license and regulate online poker for people within its borders. So, it did just that.

Legality of Online Poker Nevada

The Nevada state legislature legalized gambling in 1869, against the wishes of the state’s governor. However, they made gambling illegal in 1909. In 1931, the legislature changed its mind again and permitted “wide open” gambling in Nevada. It took some time to establish the regulatory framework and taxation regime, so the first state casino license wasn’t issued until 1945.

Since then, the state of Nevada has grown into the world’s gambling hub. The American Gaming Association reports that Nevada has 229 casinos that employ more than 330,000 people and showed more than $15.5 billion in gross gaming revenue in 2023.

Nevada has also been protective of its gambling industry. So, when it considered online gambling, the state chose to restrict it to online poker only. The casinos wanted nothing to infringe upon its land-based casino revenue, and the state complied. In 2011, the Nevada legislature passed the Interactive Gaming Law, and the Nevada Gaming Commission detailed in its regulations that “interactive gaming will be limited to poker.”

The state issued several licenses, and the first site to launch was Ultimate Poker, which allowed its first real-money online poker hand to be dealt on April 30, 2013. Ultimate Poker had partnered with Station Casinos. Several months later, the World Series of Poker partnered with 888poker for its software and Harrah’s Casino for its land-based partnership to launch in September 2013.

In early 2014, the governors of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey – the only states offering legal, state-regulated online poker – signed the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement. Also known as MSIGA, it allowed the states to amend their laws to allow operators to share online poker sites across state lines. Ultimate Poker did just that for its Nevada and New Jersey sites, and did it for all three states, though Delaware’s sharing was restricted.

Soon after, Ultimate Poker – under parent company Ultimate Gaming – closed its virtual doors. then became the sole poker operator in Nevada and, therefore, the only site operating in more than one state. As of 2024, WSOP is still the only online poker site available to 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

5A.020 Definitions

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. Players need not be a resident of Nevada to play but must be physically located within the state’s borders. This is verified by geolocation technology that locates computer IP addresses and authorizes play based on that location.

Does Nevada allow interstate online poker?

Yes. When Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) with his fellow governors in Nevada and New Jersey, it expanded the realm of online poker. It specified that an operator in more than one of those three states could link its sites across state lines.

Interstate online poker means that the sites connect from one state to another, allowing players to compete at the same tables. Nevada and New Jersey players have since competed against each other, at the same cash game tables and in the same tournaments.

Nearly ten years later, the governors of those three states signed a new version of MSIGA to include Michigan and West Virginia.

As far as Nevada connecting with Michigan, it appears that WSOP will take its NV/NJ site and include Michigan in that network sometime in 2024.

West Virginia has yet to issue any online poker licenses, so it is unclear when it will ever be able to actively participate in interstate online poker.