Well, not really begin, if you figure that many Americans have been playing casino games online for years through offshore outlets. Around the world, it has become almost commonplace. And let’s not forget, as many seem to have given the news coverage in the past week, Delaware was actually the first U.S. state to legalize online casino gaming last year through the Delaware Lottery and the three racetracks that offer the games. That system is expected to be operational this fall.

Of course, pari-mutuel betting has been allowed online for years, and other lotteries have also begun offering their products online in some fashion, but casino-style gambling is where the real potential lies. It’s finally dawning on American political leaders that they can’t stop people from playing online, so why not legalize it and take a share of the pot while ensuring proper safeguards are in place?

Yesterday’s action in New Jersey is a landmark decision. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed legislation that allows Atlantic City’s ailing casinos to offer casino games online, he potentially set in motion similar action around the country. Last week, in a successful effort to beat New Jersey to the punch, Nevada’s governor signed legislation that allows interstate online poker, potentially creating large poker games upon negotiation with other states. Nevada’s gaming operators had already been preparing to offer intrastate poker networks.

Such cross-border play is where things could get lucrative, especially with poker - building critical mass allows games to thrive. One only has to look to our friends in Canada, where a government-regulated online poker network now spans British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, with potentially more provinces joining the system in the future.

New Jersey’s legislation would also allow agreements with other states to pool wagers, but not at first, and not just with poker. Initially only New Jersey-based players will be able to access the system.

Certainly other state leaders will be watching these and other developments. Many have long argued that online gaming should be a states’ rights issue, and not something that should be forced upon individual jurisdictions by federal legislation. Clearly, Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey agree, and chose their own paths.