As Washington continues hammering out the framework for legalized online poker in the United States, Nevada’s brick & mortar casinos are patiently watching and waiting for their chance to grab a piece of the lucrative business. With rumors of punitive punishments looming against Internet poker rooms currently doing business in the US, Nevada casinos have been quietly supportive of legislation, hoping to enter the market when it is possible.

“Clearly it’s in the best interest of Nevada casinos to limit those who can get licenses to those not currently in the (online) industry because they have had a large head start,” Las Vegas gaming attorney Tony Cabot said.

As Rep. Barney Frank’s online poker legislation, HR 2267, went through committee last week, several amendments were added, including one that seemed to ban companies who are currently operating in the US from seeking licenses. “Al Capone couldn’t get a liquor license if he’d stayed around to the end of Prohibition,” said Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., who authored one of the amendments.

This is the best-case scenario for Las Vegas. Harrah’s Entertainment has already announced an interest in joining the online poker market when it is legalized. Being able to capitalize on its world-renowned WSOP brand in the absence of PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker’s long shadows would make such a move even more promising.

The speculation, however, is premature. The Poker Players Alliance was quick to point out that the attached restrictions included nothing that would keep established poker rooms from being a part of any new federal system. In addition, existing sites already have proven systems and controls in place to protect against cheating, money laundering and underage gambling, all large concerns in Congress and issues that startups would have to face.

Although legalized online poker still has a long road ahead, Nevada casinos are keeping a watchful eye on the progress. It is expected that the landscape will continue to develop, and the casinos hope to cash in on Internet poker as it does.

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