Nevada Bill Won’t Impact Staking Deals for Poker Players

Posted on January 28th, 2015 by Daniel Ryder
Nevada sports betting bill poker

The World Series of Poker might look very different if players aren’t legally permitted to reach staking agreements. (Image: Jonathan Boncek/World Series of Poker)

Nevada poker tournaments could have taken on a very different look if fears expressed about a newly-introduced gambling bill in the state turned out to be warranted.

The legislation, known as Senate Bill 40, has been pre-filed in the legislature on behalf of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, and is designed to combat the use of sports betting as a tool for money launderers.

But some feared that the vague language in the bill’s current form could have had an unintended impact: criminalizing the practice of staking players in poker tournaments.

The bill is designed to stop individuals from being compensated or rewarded for “accepting or facilitating any bet or wager upon the result of any race, sporting event or future contingent event” without the proper licenses.

It also makes it illegal to transfer or deliver payments based on the outcome of one of those wagers. The crime would be a category B felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of as much as $5,000.

Vague Language Leads to Many Questions

The language will clearly criminalize the act of placing sports bets on behalf of another person in exchange for some sort of compensation: the kind of activity that would be found if someone were trying to take money from an illegal enterprise, place some bets, and then cash out with money that’s now “clean.”

Still, many people initially believed that the language was vague enough to apply to many more gambling activities, including staking.

In tournament poker, staking is a common way for players to reduce their risk and variance. A player entering a tournament with an entry fee of tens of thousands of dollars or more may not be willing or able to risk the entire amount.

The easiest way around that is to sell a percentage of their action to backers who then take a percentage of the winnings if the player cashes in the tournament.

These sorts of agreements even happen in small, daily casino tournaments that cost just a couple hundred dollars to play in, but they’re most important in high roller events.

There may not be a single professional poker player in the world that would feel comfortable paying $1 million to enter the Big One for One Drop, for instance, meaning the tournament would struggle to run at all if players couldn’t find investors to take a large portion of their action.

Gaming Control Board Chairman Says Staking is Safe

Thankfully, these fears were largely dismissed on Wednesday when Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett said that the new regulations would only apply to sports betting, and not to poker.

“I’ve seen a couple articles on the Board’s bill regarding certain types of wagers,” Burnett told pokerfuse in an email. “Just to clarify, this isn’t a poker bill…it is solely related to sports betting only.”

Burnett noted that the use of the phrase “future contingent events,” which led some observers to speculate that the law could be applied far beyond sports betting, was necessary only to cover all possibilities of bets that could be offered by the state’s sports books.

“Our sports books don’t always take strictly sports-related bets,” Burnett wrote. “We have allowed them to take non sports bets in the past and the possibility exists that they might be allowed in the future.”

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