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Horne to sponsor online gaming bill backed by Sandoval

Online Gaming

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assemblyman William Horne delivers a statement about a bipartisan effort to pass a law legalizing online gaming in 30 days or less Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 during the 2013 legislative session in Carson City.

Updated Friday, Feb. 8, 2013 | 5:05 p.m.

2013 Legislative Session - Day 4

Members of the media cover an Assembly floor session Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 during the 2013 legislative session in Carson City. Launch slideshow »

Gov. Brian Sandoval and Assembly Majority Leader William Horne are pushing forward to pass an online gaming law within the next 30 days.

Sandoval said in a statement this morning that Nevada is now in a “critical” race with New Jersey to pass an online gaming bill into law.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie vetoed an online gaming bill Thursday, but said he would sign it into law if the New Jersey Legislature added a 10-year trial period and a higher tax rate on casinos to the bill.

“In light of the developments in New Jersey yesterday, the need to act quickly has become even more important, a fact that both I and Assemblyman Horne agree on,” Sandoval said in a statement.

Sandoval, a former chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission, had said earlier this week that he wants the Legislature to pass a bill within 30 days, but said the developments in New Jersey and Horne’s willingness to push the bill add new urgency to the matter.

Horne, a Democrat, said he’s directed legislative staff to prioritize his online gaming bill in hopes that it will sail through the Assembly and Senate and end up on Sandoval’s desk before Christie signs an online gaming bill into law in New Jersey.

“Online gaming is a creature that is out of the bottle, and Nevada needs to be first,” Horne said. “The world looks to Nevada for gaming regulation.”

The bill, he said, would have two major components: removing state statutes requiring Nevada to wait for Congress to pass online gaming legislation and enabling Nevada to enter into mutually beneficial compacts with other states that pass bills to legalize online gaming.

“The population of Nevada is not enough for online gaming so we think we can have some good relationships with other states who may have large populations but they don’t have the gaming expertise, particularly in regulations, that Nevada has,” Horne said.

Given the Republican governor’s support, Horne said he’s expecting bipartisan backing of the bill.

Most states do not allow online betting across state lines, but some -- including New Jersey -- are weighing proposals that would allow it.

Nevada allows online poker inside the state, and about 20 companies have applied for online poker licenses and will receive licenses upon approval of the technology and software, said A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Gaming Control Board.

If Nevada entered into an interstate compact with New Jersey, then poker players in each state could legally bet on websites owned by companies licensed in both states.

The push for state legislation has intensified in the wake of Congress’s failure to pass a federal regulatory scheme for online poker.

“We’re looking at the fruition of a lack of guidance for many years from the federal government,” Burnett said.

Sandoval pursued a state level course this past year with the state’s Gaming Policy Committee. Horne was on that committee, which discussed Internet poker and easing statutory barriers affecting online gaming this past July.

The Gaming Control Board has a bill that appears nearly identical to the one Horne said he will introduce. It is unclear whether Horne intends to push a new bill or sign on to the Gaming Control Board’s bill.

Burnett said “it’s fine” if Horne wants to carry the bill.

The Sandoval administration said Horne’s participation will speed along the legislative process.

“Teaming up with the Assembly Majority Leader will only enhance the opportunity to pass the legislation as quickly as possible,” said Mary-Sarah Kinner, the governor’s communications director.

Senate Democrats said they do not yet have a position on the bill, which will first have to pass the Assembly.

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