Nevada’s legislature made interstate online poker legal today, passing a bill that lets it form compacts with other states to let their residents play across borders without the need for federal gambling legislation. Declared to be an emergency measure, Bill AB114 was passed unanimously in both the Assembly and Senate on Thursday, reports The Las Vegas Sun, before being signed into law by governor Brian Sandoval later the same day. New Jersey governor Chris Christie could sign similar legislation next week, and Nevada legislators were rushing to beat the rival casino state into the law books.

Many believed that federal action would fill the regulatory gap

The Federal Wire Act historically prohibited interstate gambling, but a 2011 Court of Appeals ruling determined that it only applied to sports betting and not other types of gambling, like online poker. Many believed that federal action would fill the regulatory gap in no time, explicitly permitting online gambling, and Nevada's lawmakers established a framework that would allow it to legalize interstate gambling once the federal government gave the go-ahead. But no dice; Nevada senator Harry Reid’s proposal to do just that failed last year, leaving the future of interstate poker playing in limbo. Bill AB114 allows the state to forge ahead with online gambling, without the need to wait for explicit federal permission. The Wire Act ruling did clear the way for intrastate online gambling, however, and Nevada’s Gaming Control Board began issuing licenses to operate within the state’s borders last year.

Nevada still needs to sign compacts with partner states in order to offer cross-border gambling services, but the governor believes it is in "good legal standing" to make it happen, even without federal action. He says that Nevada lawmakers will communicate with the Department of Justice as they write the language that will form the foundation of the agreements.