But you have to be physically present within the state of Nevada to play
On Tuesday, UltimatePoker.com is expected to launch what will become the country's first fully legal online poker site, with one major catch: it will be limited to those physically present within the state of Nevada.
Neither the site nor state regulators have said precisely what means they will use to determine a player's location, but Nevada state officials said previously that it would be far more extensive than simple IP-based geo-location.
"This is an important day for the gaming industry," Ultimate Poker Chairman Tom Breitling said Monday in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "We're the first, not only in Nevada but in America, to offer real money poker in a regulated environment."
Breitling and other executives will be on a press conference call that Ars will participate in later Tuesday morning, and we will update our story with more details.
"Nevada is now the first state to accept legal, regulated interactive wagers," A.G. Burnett, the chair of the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, said. "It's a big day and I'm proud of the state."
The launch of the new site marks a significant change since April 2011's "Black Friday," the infamous day in the poker world when federal criminal and civil charges were brought against three major poker sites and their associates, and $3 billion in assets were seized. The government alleged that these sites were in violation of a 2006-era federal law forbidding companies knowingly accepting payments for illegal online gambling. As a consequence, nearly all overseas poker sites refuse to do business with players coming from American IP addresses.
A deal's a deal
Later in 2011, however, the United States Department of Justice released a famous memo allowing individual states to authorize and regulate online gambling within their own state borders. Earlier this year, the Silver State's governor signed such a bill into law — New Jersey and Delaware now also have similar laws on their books, but Nevada is the first to go live with an authorized online gambling site.
The law also allows for states to engage in "compacts," or agreements with one another, which could create a patchwork of states where online gambling is legal. For now, Nevada's laws only specifically authorize online poker, while New Jersey and Delaware will include a larger suite of casino games, including poker.
For now though, at least some big-time professional poker players — many of whom have left the United States so they can play in other countries where online poker is already legal — say that the new online games (even including New Jersey) are too small for the time being.
"[I won't move back to Nevada] until there is enough money and large enough high stakes tournaments running on the sites, which may take years depending on how the laws are structured and how difficult they make it for other states to band together and create larger prize pools," Matthew Stout, one of the top-ranked poker players worldwide, said. After Black Friday, he moved first to Costa Rica, and later to the Netherlands, just so he could play online poker full-time.
"Think of it like the Mega Millions and other multi-state lottery programs," he added. "They'd never be able to boast these gigantic nine-figure jackpots if they had to keep all lotteries intrastate. Likewise, there won't be enough money for tournament players to win until the prize pools are large enough."
Chris Derossi, Ultimate Poker's chief technology officer (and former chief architect of Macintosh system software, leading the design team for Mac OS 7.1), briefly described how this would be enforced.
"They include your network [IP address], to the location of your mobile phone device and some stuff that we can't talk about," he said. "We do require that players have a mobile device that we can locate through the mobile networks."
He clarified that the company was partnering with Locaid, a San Francisco startup that works directly with mobile phone carriers to ping phones as a way to determine their location.