New York And Michigan Top Candidates To Legalize Online Poker Next Year
Online Poker Report

These 9 States Are Likely to Explore Online Gambling Legalization in 2017

Nine states to consider online gambling in 2017
State lawmakers across the country are busy putting the finishing touches on bills before the end of the current legislative sessions, so they can head back home and start campaigning for reelection.

Those priorities have seen a dwindling number of states that still have a chance to pass an online gambling bill in 2016.

The list of potential iGaming candidates is currently down to just three, with only one state, Pennsylvania, instilling supporters of legalized online gambling with any semblance of optimism.

In fact, online gambling looks rather promising in PA, as the state legislature has included online gambling revenue in its budget projections. That said, things could still fall apart, considering the legislature has put off a vote on the gaming reform bill itself until the fall.

If, as expected, Pennsylvania legalizes online gambling this year, the stage will be set for a flurry of activity in states across the country next year. Pennsylvania could act as the catalyst for a Gladwellian “tipping point” for online gambling legalization in the United States.

In addition to the likely carryover states of California, New York, and perhaps Michigan, I also expect several new candidates to emerge.

The usual suspects

New York

New York came pretty close to passing an online poker bill earlier this year — the bill passed the state senate but died in the assembly — making the Empire State a good 2017 candidate regardless of what happens in Pennsylvania.

But with the two states sharing a border, and trying to trump one another’s gaming tally, New York is also the most likely state to feel the heat from Pennsylvania.

New York is close to a mortal lock to pass an online poker bill in 2017 if Pennsylvania crosses the finish line this fall. But even if things fall apart in Pennsylvania, New York will remains a prime candidate for online poker legalization.

Prognosis to pass an online poker bill in 2017: probable to very likely.

Further reading:

California

The other states mentioned in this column are all likely to be influenced by developments in Pennsylvania and beyond, but the fate of online poker in California has little to do with anything occurring in other statehouses.

When it comes to online poker legislation, California is an island. The state’s ability to pass an online poker bill is entirely dependent on the capability of the numerous, politically powerful stakeholders to forge some sort of an agreement on the key issues that have derailed legalization over the past decade.

This doesn’t seem likely given the current climate and recent statements.

Prognosis to pass an online poker bill in 2017: Uncertain.

Further reading:

Michigan

Before moving on to 2017, it’s important to note that Michigan’s online gambling bill should still be on our radar for 2016.

The sponsor of the state’s online gaming bill, State Senator Mike Kowall, has been of the opinion all along that the most likely timeframe for Michigan to pass a bill legalizing online gambling would be after the November elections, as the entire House of Representatives is up for reelection this year.

Plus, the legislative session doesn’t come to an end until December 31. This would give lawmakers plenty of time to pass a bill in November and December should it tickle their fancy.

However, assuming the calendar flips to 2017 without online gambling passing in Michigan, the state can use its 2016 efforts to advance a new bill next year, and will have a bit more firepower to court support if Pennsylvania legalizes online gambling and several other states start to seriously explore iGaming.

Prognosis to pass an online poker bill in 2017: possible to probable.

Further reading:

The new recruits

Indiana

Don’t look now, but the situation in Indiana has radically changed following the selection of current governor, Mike Pence, as Donald Trump‘s running mate on the Republican presidential ticket. Pence is no longer eligible to run for governor, per Indiana’s campaign laws.

This means Indiana, with a legislature that’s been trying to give its gaming industry a boost over the objections of Pence, will be losing a RAWA-supporting governor.

So long as the next governor isn’t as strident an opponent of online gambling as Pence, the  Indiana legislature may take a good hard look at online gaming legalization in 2017.

Prognosis to pass an online poker bill in 2017: long shot to a possibility.

Further reading:

New England

Three New England states — Massachusetts, Connecticut, and even Rhode Island — should all be on your radar in 2017. All three states are engaged in a gaming arms race with each other, as well as with New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Massachusetts casinos are expected to begin opening next year (starting with the First Light Casino in Taunton), and this is presumed to have a damaging impact on Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, as well as Twin Rivers in Rhode Island.

Online gambling may very well be the only viable way for the existing casinos to mitigate the impact of the new competition. Against this backdrop, it’s unlikely any of the three will sit idly by and watch their competitors launch online gambling platforms, particularly with the large border populations all these states possess.

Connecticut could turn to online gambling to help offset the cannibalization it expects when Massachusetts and New York casinos open. And while the state may be too small (population wise) to launch online poker without an interstate agreement in place, online casino is a good option

It’s also something that has been discussed behind the scenes, according to one person I spoke to with knowledge of the situation.

Massachusetts has toyed with the idea of online gambling in the past, and seems to have done a good job compiling the needed educational materials.

The question in Massachusetts will be if the state legislature wants to legalize online gambling before its casinos have opened their doors for business. If Connecticut and New York look ready to take the plunge, I suspect Massachusetts lawmakers will accelerate their timeline for action.

Stuck in the middle is the little state of Rhode Island. Its singular casino, Twin River, has been expanding quite a bit in recent years, beginning with a 2012 referendum that allowed the former slot casino to add table games.

More recently, there’s been talk about adding a hotel — Rhode Island also has a slots parlor in the Newport area.

If both Massachusetts and Connecticut move toward legal online gambling, I expect Rhode Island to follow.

Prognosis to pass an online poker bill in 2017: possibility.

Further reading:

Illinois

With a brick and mortar casino industry, an online lottery, and like virtually every other state in the country, a need for new sources of revenue, Illinois has been a great candidate for online gambling for several years.

But for whatever reason, the state has yet to explore the matter with a level of seriousness.

That being said, Michigan came veritably out of nowhere to jump into the online gaming conversation in 2016, and Illinois could do the same in 2017, especially if more and more states continue to take the plunge. The most likely scenario in 2017 is Illinois begins the process with a bill and hearings.

Prognosis to pass an online poker bill in 2017: long shot.

Ohio

Ohio is another would-be good candidate for online expansion, but like Illinois, it’s been quiet on this front.

Having its eastern neighbor, Pennsylvania, jump into online gambling might be enough to nudge Ohio lawmakers into action.

But I would anticipate 2017 being more of an educational year for Ohio, with a bill and perhaps hearings.

Prognosis to pass an online poker bill in 2017: long shot.

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Steve Ruddock
- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.