I was all set this morning to write a blog entry on the continuing dispute in Kennedy & Omotoy v. Full Tilt Poker et al. (The original post by Dan Michalski was back in 2009.) This litigation is fascinating; it has bounced from state court to federal court and back to state court in California, and an update would be fun. But something else caught my eye: a public statement from the Alderney Gambling Control Commission stating that Alderney has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The statement is here.
As just about everyone familiar with Internet gambling is aware, Alderney is one of the handful of jurisdictions worldwide that actually licenses online interactive gaming, including poker. (Other such jurisdictions include Gibraltar, Malta, the Isle of Man, Antigua, and Kahnawake.) Probably the most prominent poker website operating under Alderney’s regulation is www.fulltiltpoker.com. Obviously Tilt is a US-facing site, which is interesting fact number 1. Interesting fact number 2 is that Alderney only regulates i-gaming. This makes sense. The place is a speck of an island off the north-western coast of France with a population of 2,400; it doesn’t have any bricks and mortar casinos.
The agreement between Nevada and Alderney ”paves the way for enhanced cooperation in the field of gaming regulation.” Not too helpfully, the public statement specifies that this co-operation will extend to “the areas of sharing of information, expertise, knowledge and skills as well as exchange visits and training.” I hope for the sake of the Alderney parties that the “exchange visits” are mostly one-way and in Vegas, especially at this time of year.
So the Internet gaming regulator of a US-facing poker site (that, along with all currently US-facing poker sites) has a memorandum of understanding prescribing areas of co-operation with Nevada. (Don’t parse that previous sentence too closely; Nevada may still have a problem with i-gaming operators that turned off US players back in 2006 when the UIGEA was passed and that aren’t currently US-facing.) And since Alderney only regulates Internet gaming, the co-operation must be at least partly with a view to Nevada understanding and learning more about Internet gaming. Apparently Nevada doesn’t have a problem with recognizing the authority of Alderney to regulate Internet gaming; it only has a problem with the behaviour (sanctioned by Alderney) of some of their licensees. These kinds of agreements between gaming regulators aren’t particularly new. The Kahnwake Gaming Commission has struck agreements with Alderney and with Antigua that would appear to go much further than this accord between Alderney-Nevada. But it’s still interesting that Nevada is reaching out to engage with current online regulators - even online regulators that accept US-facing licensees.
What this means for Internet poker in the US is anyone’s guess, but it seems clear that Nevada is heading for regulation at some point. Nevada regulators were going to be at the forefront of the licensing structure contemplated by the Reid Bill draft that was floating around last month. The Nevada Gaming Commission was going to be one of the leading Qualified Bodies under the bill on a number of measures. It’s safe to say that Nevada will have a leading role if poker regulation happens at the federal level in the next couple of years; federal action may actually be more likely if more and more states start regulating intrastate gaming, including poker. At an intrastate level, Nevada’s signals have been mixed at best. This kind of agreement with Alderney, however, may indicate that Nevada could be thinking about going its own way absent federal interactive gaming oversight.
Internet poker regulation in the US may be one (very small) step closer.