Monday, May 30, 2011 | 8:23 p.m.
CARSON CITY – A bill to open the door for Internet poker in Nevada casinos cleared the Senate Monday on a 19-2 vote.
The bill directs the state Gaming Commission to adopt regulations by January 2012 that permit Internet poker, a bill strongly supported by the gaming industry.
Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, said Congress first must pass legislation allowing online poker in the United States or the Justice Department must withdraw its current view that it is illegal. By adopting the regulations, Nevada would be able to get a head start on other states.
If first approved by the federal government, the Nevada measure would permit the game in Las Vegas hotel-casinos with unrestricted gaming licenses.
In Washoe County, online poker would be allowed in hotels with at least 120 rooms, a 24-hour restaurant and at least 1,600 slot machines, 40 table games and a sports books.
The bill would allow Internet poker in rural counties if the resort has 50 hotel rooms and the business has held a non-restricted license for at least five years.
Wiener said the bill would require online poker games to pay the same tax as other games, but the tax would be waived if the federal government were to enact a similar tax.
The two dissenting votes were cast by Republican Sens. Barbara Cegavske and Elizabeth Halseth, both of Las Vegas.