Nevada looks to cash in on online gambling resurgence

A screen image of Tom Breitling's poker Web site.
CBS News

(CBS News) Online gambling was almost a bust in the U.S., but now, players are being dealt in once again, and Nevada is cashing in.

In Vegas, you can find a game of poker at any casino, any hour, any day. It's long been America's most popular card game. During the Civil War, soldiers played between battles. It's been dealt in saloons and around kitchen tables.

Now, Internet entrepreneur Tom Breitling wants to have poker at any computer any hour, any day. He explained, "It starts in Nevada, and then it goes to the rest of the country."

Breitling started an online travel site that became Expedia. He sold it for $100 million profit. He bought and sold Vegas' Golden Nugget, making another $100 million. Now he's hoping to do for poker what he did for travel: make it accessible online. His website might look like a standard video game -- old school even. But it's new and it's big. Breitling's website went online in Nevada last month and has already dealt two million hands to poker lovers.

Bree Goldman is one of the players on Breitling's site. Goldman said of playing, "If I'm focused on just making as much money as possible, I would say online poker is probably your best bet. You can play lots of different tables at once."

Unregulated poker flourished online for years until the federal government shut sites down in 2011 for violating interstate finance rules. The rules have since been reinterpreted, opening the door. Now, New Jersey and Delaware plan to roll out online gaming, and other states are considering it. But Nevada was first.

Breitling, chairman of Ultimate Gaming, said, "When a customer feels safe, then they are willing to spend their entertainment dollars with you."

For safety, Breitling created an ultra-safe website. The state set strict regulations: players must be 21; must be in Nevada, and must stake their funding up front.

Poker fanatic, James Placek, likes the casino, but likes online gaming better. "When I get home from work, I try to spend time with the kids and the family and the wife, and then to relax, I like to get online about 10 or 11 at night and wind down before bedtime," he said. "So I mean, that's a win, win."

Breitling's partner in this high stakes poker venture: Ultimate Fighting Championship. He's betting young fight fans will become poker fans. He said, "The core demographic for UFC is almost a perfect overlap with online poker -- loves new technology, loves to play games, highly disposable income."

With online poker expected to generate $400 million in Nevada in four years, Breitling's betting other states will be at the table soon.

Watch Bill Whitaker's report above.