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Nevada to OK Private Testing of Internet Poker Sites

Rules for New Ancillary Businesses to be Completed by May

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bwin.party digital entertainment partnered with MGM Resorts in Oct. 2010In the midst of a rapidly changing gaming industry, Nevada regulators are looking for some help to keep the state competitive.

Silver State officials announced Thursday in an industry notice that they will begin drafting regulations and accepting applications for private testing labs, which would inspect and help certify online poker sites, as well as other gaming devices in the casino industry.

A bill signed into law this past summer essentially gives regulators the power to allow more businesses to enter into the equation for an online-poker system. The Gaming Commission will collect fees from such companies.

The law’s purpose was to speed up the process of bringing games to the market. The state legislature was also concerned with maintaining a “balance” between regulators and business interests.

Dr. David Schwartz, Director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, said that there has been a “bottleneck” in the state’s understaffed testing labs. Regulators have said that the bulk of the scrutiny in licensing online poker sites would take place in the lab.

The state budget deficit that online poker is expected to mitigate won’t allow for new public sector jobs to police gaming, Gaming Control Board member A.G. Burnett said in October.

Schwartz pointed out that interest in taking some of the burden off of regulators was around well before the ball got rolling with online poker this past March.

Regulations for commercial labs must be adopted before May 1, 2012. According to the industry notice, the level of interest has been increasing, despite rules not yet being in place.

In addition to the lab testing component of an intrastate online-poker industry, regulators are still hashing out language that covers rules and requirements for software and equipment, segregated funds, player registration and player-collusion safeguards

Mark LipparelliControl Board Chairman Mark Lipparelli said last month that the rules will be fine-tuned before an application is sent to the Commission for final approval. There hasn’t yet been any formal action on the seven applications already submitted.

The core set of online-poker regulations were finished in late December.

Regulators have been tight-lipped about giving a time frame for web poker. Schwartz said the goal is to have sites operational by the spring.

Chairman Lipparelli wasn’t available Monday or Tuesday for comment regarding private labs and their role in Nevada’s online-poker plans.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus