The American state of Nevada is synonymous with gambling, thanks to the unstoppable rise of the neon gaming playground that is Las Vegas. Although Vegas without casinos seems unthinkable in the modern age, it really hasn't been that long since gambling was completely illegal in the state. The state's attitude to online gambling is changing rapidly, though, and in February 2013 Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval finally signed an emergency measure that legalised online poker within its borders.
Despite inheriting the pastime of gambling from the British colonists, by the start of the 20th Century most forms of gambling in the United States were illegal, following decades of anti-gambling protests and legislation. However, Nevada was reborn in the 1930s as an answer to The Great Depression, giving the economy a much-needed boost. As almost every other state within America retained the ban on gambling activity, Nevada filled an exclusive gap in the market. By the conclusion of World War II, Las Vegas had grown into a gambling haven not just for America, but for the world. With the exception of horse racing, Nevada is still the only state where sports betting bookmakers may operate within the law.
While a number of states are now starting to soften their approach to online gambling (namely New Jersey and Delaware), a desire to be at the forefront of the industry led to the introduction of an emergency measure in the Nevada state legislature to legalise online poker within the state's borders. The measure was passed unanimously by the state's Assembly, allowing Governor Brian Sandoval to sign it into law in February 2013.
Since then, just two websites have launched to cater to Nevada's online poker needs - the first being Ultimate Poker, and the more recent being WSOP.com. These sites have seen some success, averaging about 200 players per week between them and slowly convincing US players to abandon international casinos and bet legally at home. Despite the state's attitude to poker, at present all other forms of online gambling remain illegal, with residents forced to head to physical casinos to enjoy sportsbooks and other casino games. What's more, online poker is only legal for those accessing sites from within Nevada's borders, severely limiting the number of people who can take part.
Of course, online gambling laws are changing fast, and it would only require a change in regulations to make other forms of online gambling legal in the state, rather than a full change to the law. As rival New Jersey has now legalised online poker and online casino, it seems like only a matter of time before Nevada lawmakers and regulators exercise their powers to expand access to online table games, slot machines and sportsbooks.
The famous Las Vegas Strip offers a host of glittering, themed hotel casinos, in which players can gamble on classic casino games. According to a recent report from the Nevada Gaming Control Board, crowd favourite blackjack has been usurped by the popular baccarat, while craps and roulette still generate more revenue than poker. The dense banks of slot machines that inhabit the hotel floors still generate almost as much money as all the pit games combined.
Sports betting is also a big draw in Las Vegas, with the likes of the Bellagio Hotel offering over 150 screens in its luxurious Race & Sports Lounge to watch and bet on the big action from baseball, American football, ice-hockey and basketball.
The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino was the 2013 host for the World Series of Poker main event, featuring the so-called November Nine as they battled to be crowned world champion in the $10,000 no-limit championship. This is just one of many poker tournaments in Vegas, including the Venetian Deep Stack Extravaganza and the Binion’s Poker Classic, both held during the summer. There are also a number of big slot tournaments.
As mentioned earlier, Nevada's latest measures to legalise online poker within the state's borders are encouraging for proponents of online gambling. One of the most exciting aspects of the law, though, is the section allowing the Nevada Gaming Control Board to enter into deals with other states, allowing their citizens to legally access online poker sites. The local government is hoping that other states will see the benefit of working with one of the oldest gaming commissions in the states, giving it access to a much wider pool of players. Until then, though, the citizens of Nevada will wait in anticipation for further loosening of restrictions, hoping that their legislators will follow in the footsteps of New Jersey.
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