VirtGame gets go-ahead for “PC” betting in Nevada
By staff
The Nevada Gaming Commission granted a limited license to a company for a closed-loop computer system for betting on sports on Thursday. The license was awarded to San Diego-based VirtGame Corp.

It may be betting via computer, using a modem and a phone line – but it’s not Internet betting. Confused? “It’s a closed-loop computer system”, compared to the Internet, which is a public network. Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander has described the Virtgame system as 'an extension of telephone wagering, using modems and a PC,' – that’s still a pretty good definition of Internet betting.

Although punters can bet on sports and races across the US, they can only do it from within Nevada – without having to stand in line at the counters of Nevada’s legitimate sports books within casinos. The technology is set up to block bets from out of state bettors.

Bruce Merati, head of VirtGame, said he hopes to have the system in Nevada casinos by early next year under the 18-month license.

Desktop sports bettors must initially sign up at a casino sports book and deposit front money in exchange for a password that allows their computers to dial directly to a modem in the sports book using a closed-loop connection. However, they have to physically return to the sports book to cash in their bet.

Bettors also would have a preapproved credit line for what Merati termed a “cashless” system.

Virtgame has an arrangement with Coast Resorts Inc. for the computer betting operation that will let Nevada residents legally place bets 24 hours a day on baseball games, horse races and other sports.

Merati also said the company hopes to raise about $5 million from investors in the next two months and, because of a “very lean and mean” operation plus the expected contracts, should be profitable by January.

Commission Chairman Pete Bernhard warned Merati to be “absolutely, precisely accurate” in public statements about VirtGame. If there’s any evidence of misleading information, “we’d be extremely upset,” he added.

Bernhard said earlier news reports and VirtGame’s publicity had inaccurately reported that the company had won licensing approval from Nevada regulators.

Commission member Augie Gurrola asked about electronic blackjack or other games that could be added to the VirtGame system. Merati said that’s a consideration for the future, but not now.

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