In the wake of the Black Friday online poker shutdown in the U.S., some states are seizing the opportunity to finally implement safer regulations for players.

Nevada passes poker bill
In a unanimous vote (!), Nevada’s state Assembly passed “a stripped-down Internet gambling bill” on Thursday, reports the Associated Press via Forbes.

Yes, this is the originally PokerStars-backed bills. The version that passed, last week, however, was severely watered down from its earlier scope. Whereas it once called for immediate licensing and regulation within Nevada with a national market potential, it now just calls for lawmakers to “develop a licensing process for online poker businesses.”

Still, it’s progress, and very similar to what Iowa is doing. The bill now heads to the state’s Senate, where it’s also expected to pass. If it continues to move this quickly, Nevada could still be the first state to implement regulated online gambling.

Anticipation builds in California
That’s also what California is getting closer to doing.  The state has two pending bills that would regulate online poker: One of the bills largely deals in the state’s powerful tribal gambling interests; the other bill does not.

Media and political figures are seizing the Black Friday headlines to offer big support for the bills.

“Far from quelling interest in online poker, the Black Friday indictments have whetted the appetite for California to step into the lead in legalizing the business,” writes Michael Hiltzik at the L.A. Times.

“California may be one of a very few states hosting a critical mass of players. Californians accounted for as much as 15% of the U.S.-based business for the poker sites shut down this month, estimates Howard Dickstein, a Sacramento gaming attorney who represents several Indian tribes hankering for a piece of the action.”

California also “has the clout to set an example for Congress and other jurisdictions,” writes Ben Boychuk at the Sacramento Bee. “Isn’t that what we often hear about more ‘progressive’ policy initiatives?

“Why not add Internet poker to that litany? Current federal law is already on shaky ground, with bipartisan support coalescing around Campbell’s bill. California could provide the push Congress needs to legalize and regulate a thriving global industry.”

D.C. still leads the race
In what was probably just lucky timing, the Black Friday announcement came hot on the heels of news from Washington, D.C., that the district would be launching online gambling hotspots this summer that allow money betting on online poker.

“Right now, we are the only game in town, so to speak,” D.C. Councilman Michael A. Brown told the Washington Post. “Other states are looking to do this, so I don’t think we’ll be the only game in town for long, but we certainly may as well take advantage of this while we can.”

D.C. is the first, then, but doesn’t yet show the desire for expansion on a national scale like California and Nevada (and New Jersey) would be capable of. So, for all intents and purposes, the race is still on.

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