Mississippi online gambling bill dies; California to renew sports bet push; Nevada operator delays

mississippi-nevada-california-gamblingWhile New Jersey and US online gambling fans in general are celebrating Gov. Chris Christie’s ‘conditional approval’ (as it’s been dubbed) of the state’s online gambling legislation, the hopes of Mississippi online gamblers have once again been dashed. Rep. Bobby Moak’s HB 254 aka the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act died this week after failing to make it past the committee stage, much as Moak’s HB 1372 failed to progress to the full legislature in 2012. Moak had the support of the state’s licensed gaming operators, but apparently couldn’t convince the state’s elected officials that voting to expand gaming wouldn’t lead to them being forcibly strapped to a riverboat paddlewheel by the state’s religious conservatives. Oh, well… Same time next year, Bobby?

Days before New Jersey leapfrogged past Nevada in the race to become the nation’s primary online gambling hub, Nevada’s legislature was considering a bill to allow Nevada to enter into interstate compacts to share online poker liquidity with other willing/able states. On Tuesday, Gaming Control Board (GCB) chairman A.G. Burnett told the state Senate Finance Committee that swift action was necessary if Nevada wanted to remain “the gold standard of both gaming regulation and operation.” More to the point, UNLV Center for Gaming Research director Dave Schwartz told the Nevada Appeal that while the numerous companies that have sought a Nevada interactive gaming license may initially be content to “play in the sandbox” of the state’s pitifully small 2.8m population, expanding the player pool will be mandatory to ensure these companies’ long term commitment.

While Burnett and Gov. Brian Sandoval are clamoring for speedy action, some of the companies that have already been awarded Nevada interactive gaming licenses are looking to slow things down. On Wednesday, the GCB approved requests by South Point Poker, ACEP Interactive and Monarch Interactive for extensions on completing lab testing of their online poker software. Companies are supposed to have their operations underway within six months of receiving their interactive licenses, but if the state Gaming Commission approves the GCB’s recommendation, the three companies would have until August to finish their testing. In case you forgot, it was last August when South Point COO Lawrence Vaughan predicted his outfit would be dealing real-money poker “sometime in October.” Guess we all just missed the “October 2013” part.

Friday is the deadline for New Jersey to respond to the Department of Justice’s constitutional arguments supporting the federal ban on sports betting. On the other side of the country, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that California state Sen. Roderick Wright will reintroduce the sports betting legislation that fell short of passage in 2012. Wright’s SB 1390 bill was introduced last March and passed the state Senate, only to be shelved midway through its journey through the state Assembly.

On Wednesday, California’s Senate Republican Caucus issued a report on the sports wagering issue, saying allowing “horse racing tracks and satellite wagering facilities on fair grounds, card clubs, and tribal casinos, for instance” to offer sports betting “might provide the vital financial help to the racing and fair industries.” Not for nothing, but Wright’s constituency includes the Hollywood Park racetrack. California voters have already indicated they’d welcome sports betting, even more so than online poker. Much will depend on the outcome of the federal suit in New Jersey.