By Kate Lowenhar-Fisher, Jennifer Gaynor and Greg Gemignani

In a move designed to provide Nevada race books and sports pools with a greater variety of offerings, the Nevada Gaming Commission, on February 26, 2015, adopted amendments to its regulations to allow wagering on Olympic events as well as “virtual” events.

Wagering on Olympic events previously had been legal in Nevada but was outlawed in 2001 in response to a campaign by U.S. Senator John McCain to ban betting on all amateur sports. Since 2001, Nevada Gaming Commission Regulation 22 (Race Books and Sports Pools) has prohibited wagers on “any amateur non collegiate sport or athletic event.” The February 26 amendment revises the regulation to specifically exclude from the list of prohibited wagers bets on “Olympic sporting or athletic events sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, subject to limitation by the chairman or the chairman’s designee in his sole and absolute discretion.” This allows broad betting on Olympic events but provides Nevada’s regulators the discretion to remove a certain contest or event from betting activity.

This is a real win for Nevada’s sports pools, for which the summer is traditionally a slow sports betting period, because baseball is the only major sport in the United States during that time. This puts Nevada’s sports pools on par with those in other international jurisdictions, such as the U.K., which already allow wagers on Olympic events.

Quickly following the decision on February 26, Nevada sports books raced to begin offering betting lines on the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Nevada Gaming Commission further amended NGC Regulation 22 on February 26 to allow wagering on “virtual” events at Nevada sports pools.

For wagers on a virtual event to be permissible, the conditions include that an approved gaming device be used to determine the outcome(s) and display an accurate representation of the outcome(s) of the virtual event, that a live display of the virtual event is offered to all approved sports pools, and that the virtual event is pre-approved by Nevada’s gaming regulators. The technology involved in offering virtual events will be subjected to testing and approval by the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Virtual wagering is widespread and successful in the United Kingdom and other countries. Initial offerings are likely to include mainly virtual racing and sporting events but could expand to a potentially unlimited number of virtual events.