WILMINGTON, Del. — The governors of Delaware and Nevada signed a first-of-its-kind Internet gambling agreement Tuesday that establishes a legal framework allowing residents of the two states to play online poker against one another.
“I consider this a landmark intersection in the road of gaming history,” Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval said before signing the agreement.
Sandoval and Delaware Gov. Jack Markell said the agreement could make online gambling more attractive for players while boosting gambling revenues for the states.
“It’s truly imperative for us to be able to partner together,” Sandoval said.
Markell said the agreement is a “natural next step” to ensure that Delaware’s gambling industry, which is struggling because of competition in neighboring states, remains “at the cutting edge.” Delaware’s three state-licensed casinos have steadily lost business in recent years to casinos in neighboring states despite the addition of table games, sports betting and online gambling.
“We should do everything we can to make our gaming industry as competitive as it can possibly be,” Markell said.
While initially limited to online poker, the agreement offers the possibility of additional games and additional states as members of a multistate Internet gaming association.
“We know that more games and more states means more revenue,” said Markell, a Democrat.
Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey are the only states to have legalized online gambling, but at least 10 other states are considering doing so.
Sandoval, a Republican, said New Jersey officials have expressed some interest in the multistate agreement but are waiting to see how it works out for Delaware and Nevada.
Officials gave no estimate for how much additional revenue the agreement might generate, or a date for when a technology platform allowing Delaware and Nevada players to play against one another will be in place.
“I think there’s certainly potential that it can be done by the end of the year,” said Delaware finance secretary Tom Cook.
Under the agreement, Nevada and Delaware players within their respective state boundaries would be allowed to compete against one another, subject to the gambling regulations of each state. Each state currently has three licensees through which players can access online poker, and each state would get a share of the money wagered by its players. The agreement includes a set of minimum regulatory standards that states would have to meet to participate.
The agreement will be overseen by an association formed as a Delaware limited-liability company, with a governing board of one representative from each state. As initial members, Nevada and Delaware both would have to consent to any amendments to the agreement or allowing a third state to join. Thereafter, such changes would require a two-thirds vote of member states.
“This agreement strikes the necessary balance between reasonable regulation and state sovereignty,” Sandoval said. “... We hope it will serve as a model for multistate collaboration.”