(AP) -- Nevada gambling regulators on Thursday unanimously approved rules that allow companies in the state apply for licenses to operate poker websites, a move that puts Nevada in a position to capitalize if Congress reverses its ban on Internet gambling.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports (http://bit.ly/vAZsSb ) that the regulations would let casino companies operate Internet poker sites in the state, and some sites could begin operating by the end of 2012.
"We estimate the U.S. online poker market at $5 billion in revenue, relative to the current $24 billion global Internet gaming market and (the) $33 billion commercial casino market in the U.S.," Union Gaming Group analyst Bill Lerner wrote in a research report. "In our opinion, the commercialization of online poker is a 2013 event."
Online poker in Nevada could be commercially marginal, but would provide a model for other states, Lerner said.
The guidelines were mandated by the state Legislature's approval of Assembly Bill 258 earlier this year, which dictated that Internet poker regulations be established by Jan. 31.
Licensed gaming companies seeking online poker licenses will have to prove that their technology will be able to limit play to state residents of a legal age. Online poker sites are also required to establish procedures to detect money laundering, fraud or other criminal activities, and to establish a cash reserve to complement money deposited by customers in their accounts.
Caesars Entertainment Corp. and Boyd Gaming Corp. have already submitted proposals to be licensed once regulations are ready, along with casino equipment manufacturers such as International Game Technology, Bally Technologies Inc. and Cantor Gaming.
According to the regulations, companies new to Nevada would be vetted with full licensing investigations, which usually take several months.
Casino industry representatives applauded the vote despite online poker being illegal in the United States.
The federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits companies from accepting payments related to online wagering, but allows several exceptions, including intrastate wagering and fantasy sports.
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