Published: May 1, 2013
LAS VEGAS Poker devotees can now skip the smoky casino and legally gamble their dollars away on the couch - at least in the state of Nevada.
A Las Vegas-based casino subsidiary launched the first fully legal poker website in the United States on Tuesday morning.
The site, run by Ultimate Gaming, is only accepting wagers from players in Nevada for now, but likely represents the next chapter in gambling nationwide.
Internet poker, never fully legal, has been strictly outlawed since 2011, when the Department of Justice seized the domain names of the largest offshore sites catering to U.S. customers and blacked them out.
This crackdown, dubbed 'black Friday, ' left poker fanatics with two options: They could either get dressed and visit a card room, or break the law and log into an offshore site.
More recently, the federal government softened its stance on Internet betting, and three states - New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada - have legalized some form of online wagering within their borders.
With Tuesday's launch, Nevada wins the race to bring Texas Hold 'em back to the Internet.
'There was black Friday, and now we're going to have 'trusting Tuesday,' ' said Ultimate Gaming CEO Tobin Prior. 'Players won't have to worry if their money is safe. They are going to be able to play with people they can trust and know the highest regulatory standards have been applied. '
About 20 other companies- including Zynga, the creator of FarmVille - are preparing to open their virtual doors in the Silver State.
UltimatePoker.com will look familiar to anyone who participated in the poker craze of the 2000s. Only the account setup and login process have changed. Instead of checking a box certifying they are older than 18, players will click through a lengthy setup process involving Social Security and cellphone numbers. Only those older than 21 will be allowed to play.
Ultimate Gaming hopes to win the trust not only of players, but of regulators and politicians.
'It's an opportunity to show the world how to properly run online poker, ' Ultimate Gaming chairman Tom Breitling said.
Several cash-hungry states are weighing legislation that would allow them to tap into what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar market. Some bills would legalize only poker, as Nevada has, while others would throw open the gates to all casino games, including slots, as New Jersey and Delaware have done.