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The poker business blinded the gaming industry's cops

By Joni Hawk, Jul 24th 2006
The state's Gaming Control Board takes great pride in being strict enforcers of the rules that govern Nevada gambling. But the impressive expansion of the poker business has blinded the gaming industry's cops, and they seem powerless against the rise of online poker.

According to state laws, in Nevada, playing online poker is prohibited. Also, the federal government affirms that it is illegal anywhere else in US, too. This is a fact that the operators of online poker industry hopes the courts will change in their favor.

Initially, Nevada gaming regulator took a harsh position against playing online poker and forced potential gaming license applicants to sell their rights stakes in online casinos. They banned poker tournaments in state casinos from licensing online poker rooms to conduct official satellite tournaments that send winners to play in Nevada events.

That was when the online poker business was still pretty small. But after Tennessee accountant Chris Moneymaker parlayed his $40 Poker Stars satellite victory into a (non-officially sanctioned) entry into the 2003 World Series of Poker championship event at Binion's Horseshoe and took down the top prize of $2.5 million, the online business exploded.

With Moneymaker's win and the TV exposure, online poker exploded, as did revenue in Las Vegas poker rooms and the tournaments they held.

The World Series of Poker championship event drew 839 entries in 2003, a number that jumped to 2,576 in 2004, 5,519 last years and is expected to reach 8,000 or more this year.

The Gaming Control Board allows the properties hosting major poker events to partner so closely with poker Web sites that invites players to break the law; and we find this to be astonishing.
Harrah's can get away with the close partnerships because the online operators use their Web sites' "dot net" suffix, meaning that they call themselves by the names of their "educational" sister sites that offer free play instead of poker for money.

Ultimatebet.com, where you can bet, with a wink becomes Ultimatebet.net, where you can't. So Harrah's isn't technically partnering with illegal operators, and regulators aren't technically allowing a rule-breaking partnership.

Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander says the distinction between the dot-coms and the dot-nets matters and that regulator don't see a problem with the dot-net marketing at the WSOP.

He's wrong. The dot-net distinction shouldn't make a difference. Nevada casino operators shouldn't be partnering with illegal online casino operators - or their shadow sites.

It's time for Nevada regulators to say enough is enough and prove they still have the backbone to stand up to the big money of online casinos.

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