Nevada Gambling & Poker Laws

An Overview Of The Gambling & Poker Laws In The State Of Nevada

Nevada has been the pioneer when it comes to gambling legislation. This State was the first to legalize gambling in 1931, the first to regulate online poker games in 2013, and the first (along with Delaware) to sign an inter-State liquidity sharing agreement in 2014. This article gives you a detailed overview of the gambling laws in the State of Nevada.

First up below you’ll find some of the key moments in history for gambling activity in Nevada. This is followed by a summary of the current legal status for each of the major forms of gambling, game-by-game. After that there is a synopsis of the key laws and statutes covering gambling activities – along with a legal timeline. This page ends with a summary and a brief look into the future.


Nevada Gambling Laws – A Brief History

The world-famous entertainment center of Las Vegas would lead many to assume that Nevada have a liberal attitude towards gambling. This is incorrect. In fact the laws covering licensing and oversight of the games – along with strict penalties for individuals and organizations that do not adhere to them – make for some of the strictest rules around. The key factor is that adherence to these rules allow the multi-billion dollar gambling industry to prosper.

A famous gaming bill of 1931 legalized many forms of gambling and lead to the creation of Las Vegas as an entertainment and gaming destination. This was not the first act which covered people’s rights to play games of chance, for that you have to go back to 1865 – soon after the State’s inception. A bill was passed which de-criminalized playing of chance games. It also greatly reduced the strict penalties for the game organizers – leading to a boom in underground gambling.

This lasted until 1909 when the prevailing mood of the Temperance movement saw gambling made strictly against the law (along with alcohol consumption). Gambling still went on, as did drinking, at underground gambling houses, under the control of the mob.

The 1931 bill saw gaming out in the open, and an industry able to boom. Sports-betting took a few more years to become legal – and even after the 1949 opening of ‘Turf Clubs’, this was heavily taxed. The reduction of sports betting taxes from 10% through to 2% and then later 0.25% helped Nevada to become a center for sports betting as well as casino gambling and poker card-rooms.

Today the tax revenue from casinos and sports books makes up half of the income for this state. They have been pioneers in the introduction of licensed online poker operators – hoping to become a future hub and center of competence for internet gaming. In 2014, Nevada signed an agreement with Delaware to share players across their internet poker sites – again leading the way in legislation of the gambling environment.


What Forms Of Gambling Are Currently Legal in Nevada?

Casino Games: Yes, though compliance and licensing by the Nevada gaming board is required. Nevada has more casinos than any other state and turns over billions annually in them. As long as you are 21 or older, you can gamble 24/7/365 here.

Online Casino Gambling: No, the internet poker legislation, invoked in 2013, does not currently include any provision for casino games – and many parties feel that this could impact the margins of the casino resorts.

Live Poker: Yes, Nevada licenses card-rooms in addition to casinos. You can play poker (or any gambling game) at home as long as there is no organizer taking a cut or making a profit from running the games. Charity poker events are also allowed, again these are licensed and controlled by the Nevada Gaming Board.

Online Poker: Yes, Nevada has licensed real money online poker games for players who are located within the State borders. There are currently two live sites Ultimate Poker, and WSOP Poker – a joint venture between 888 and Caesars Interactive. In 2014 a bill was signed allowing sharing of players between licensed poker sites in Nevada and Delaware. Nevada residents are not permitted to gamble at offshore poker sites, however no player has ever been indicted for this.

Sports Betting: Yes, betting on sports has been legal in Nevada since 1949 and today’s low tax rate makes Nevada sports-books very attractive to gamblers.  As well as taking odds directly with the sports books (who are today controlled by the big casinos), pooled – or Pari-mutuel – betting is available.

Lottery Betting: No, with so many other forms of gambling regulated and licensed, it may come as a surprise to some people that Nevada does not have a lottery or partake in any national or inter-state schemes.

Bingo Games: Yes, charity gambling laws allow bingo and raffles.


Nevada Gambling Laws – Timeline Of Key Statutes And How They Relate To Gambling Games

The Nevada statutes are detailed, and contain multiple areas which it is possible to break the law including hosting, cheating or promoting illegal gambling games. The core definition of gambling is playing in an ‘illegal gambling game’ – which makes the list of games the key element in the legal framework. Here is the key excerpt:

“Game” or “gambling game” means any game played with cards, dice, equipment or any mechanical, electromechanical or electronic device or machine for money, property, checks, credit or any representative of value, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, faro, monte, roulette, keno, bingo, fan-tan, twenty-one, blackjack, seven-and-a-half, big injun, klondike, craps, poker, chuck-a-luck, Chinese chuck-a-luck (dai shu), wheel of fortune, chemin de fer, baccarat, pai gow, beat the banker, panguingui, slot machine, any banking or percentage game or any other game or device approved by the commission…” (From 463-0152)

That’s a pretty comprehensive list, and the inclusion of cards makes making the poker ‘skill game’ argument difficult.

Below is the timeline of major legal events in the history Nevada gambling:

1931: The ‘Wide Open Gambling’ bill ends the period of prohibition. Signed into law by the then Governor Fred Balzar, this act gave the counties power to license gambling institutions and collect fees and taxes. This bill was a reaction to the effects of the great depression, and is credited with the development of the resort casinos which make up today’s famous Las Vegas strip.

1949: Law passed allowing gambling on Horse Racing and pro-sports. This led to the creation of ‘Turf Clubs’, small sports-books which have since been replaced by the sports-books at the major casinos.

1955: Nevada Gaming Control Board created to ‘clean up’ gambling, which was run by ‘undesirable elements’ (the Mob) for many years. This board still administers gaming licenses, collects fees and handles taxation issues today. In 1959 this board was strengthened with an act creating a commission to rule over disputes arising in from Control Board investigations or applications. This is a 5-member board with fixed 4 year terms. In 1961 this was bolstered even further by another act creating an 11-member oversight committee.

1974: Sports Betting Tax reduced to 2%, triggering interest from the major casinos and a new type of sports book being created with plush furniture and decoration.

1975: First sports books opened in the major casino resorts (pioneered by the Stardust Casino). This was the beginning of the end for the Turf-Clubs.

1983: Betting Tax further reduced to 0.25%

2011: A Gaming Control Act bill is introduced outlining legalization of online poker within state boarders.

2013: The bill is signed into law by Governor Bill Sandoval on Feb 21st. By the fall the first regulated online poker sites appear. These are Ultimate Poker and WSOP.com poker- which is built on the 888 Poker platform and is the poker site of Caesars Interactive, part of the giant Caesars Casino empire.

2014: First intra-state compact formed with Delaware. This compact sets up a Multi-State oversight committee, and includes explicit wording covering the inclusion of further member States in the future:


Summary Of Current Status And A Look Into The Future

Nevada’s progressive legislation and strict rules on unlicensed operations have seen this State lead the way in the world of gambling for the best part of a century. There are two areas which will be watched closely moving forward – the growth of internet poker, and the possible licensing of online casino sites. With experience of running the first inter-state poker compact, Nevada are potentially setting themselves up as a hub for a wider network of States. With lucrative tax revenues and the potential for job creation, many other States will be looking at taking their slice of the pie – only time will tell who prevails, though this State has given themselves the best possible start.


Useful Resources:

Delaware Governor Site – Liquidity Sharing Agreement

Bill Legalizing Online Poker

Centre For Gaming Research – Overview of NV Gaming Statutes

Nevada Gaming Control Board

Nevada Gaming Control Board Regulations And Statutes Page

Wiki Sportsbooks Page, Summaries / History

American Gaming Association PASPA Page