Could Nevada Take Next Step And Add Online Casino Gaming?

Could Nevada Take Next Step And Add Online Casino Gaming?
© USA Today

Nevada appears to be getting serious about expanding its gambling offerings to include online casino gaming, such as slot machines, blackjack, roulette and other games.

So far, online gaming in Nevada has been limited to sports betting and poker.

On May 13, the Nevada Gaming Control Board will hold an in-person and virtual work session on online gaming with public comment. The session is advertised as a discussion of amendments to an existing state law on interactive gaming.

The enabling state legislation setting up online casino gaming has been on the books for 20 years.

But whether the inhibiting factors were the shifting federal stance on such gaming or opposition from the late, politically influential casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who staunchly opposed internet gambling, Nevada has been standing pat on online casino gaming. Adelson died this year and his corporate successors at Las Vegas Sands have sold the company’s Vegas assets, two luxury casinos and convention center to focus on business efforts in Asia.

A number of factors have Nevada considering adding online gaming to a gambling landscape that obviously includes a ton of casinos — 219 according to the American Gaming Association — as well as online sports betting and internet poker.

Among the influencers are that some states have introduced online gaming with success; most notably, New Jersey saw about $1 billion in online gaming revenue in 2020. Plus, the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the bricks-and-mortar casino industry showed that providing an alternate outlet for the Nevada gaming industry to reach customers would be prudent.

Online casino games are also legal in Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia and Michigan.

Nevada’s online poker experience has produced tepid results – revenue of $20 million in 2020 — but poker, as a peer-to-peer game, relies on “liquidity” (meaning a critical mass of players to attract significant money). Getting states hooked up in poker compacts to pool players — Nevada has such a compact with New Jersey and Delaware — has been slow.

However, casinos games are house-banked and as such aren’t reliant on liquidity. Estimates put projected revenues from online casino gaming in Nevada at nearly $270 million in just a few years.

More Casinos in Nevada

Of course, Nevada is not New Jersey. In New Jersey, gamblers have to travel to Atlantic City to play an actual slot machine or at an actual blackjack table. So, the choice of sitting at home and hitting keys on a personal computer or pecking at a mobile device is an important convenience.

Nevada, on the other hand, has those 200-plus casinos. In Clark County, where most of the state’s residents live, locals casinos are never more than a 15-minute drive and slots and video poker machines are sprinkled throughout the valley in bars and convenience stores. As a result, it is arguable whether the broader casino industry in the Silver State sees online gaming as a plus or minus when stay-at-home gambling means that customers are not patronizing in-casino bars and restaurants.

And then there’s the question of whether local gambling companies can even compete for the online gambling dollar when they’ll have to go against the promotional marketing efforts of the Big Guy operators, such as Caesars, MGM and Wynn. As evidenced by the online sports betting experience, customer acquisition and retention is a pricey part of the online gaming business.

The Nevada Resort Association, which represents casino interests, has taken no position on online gaming in Nevada. Stakeholders who do have a position on the subject will get a chance to voice their opinions next Thursday.

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