Online Gambling Progress In Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, And California
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The State Of The States: Where Online Gambling Bills Stand Right Now

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Online gambling is legal in three states. Four states have active legislation that could allow them to offer legal and regulated U.S. online poker and casino games.

Where do those efforts stand right now?

Michigan online gambling

Michigan represents the newest effort to regulate online gaming in the U.S. As such, it’s the one that has the most optimism behind it.

The bill —  SB 889 — was just introduced last week. There has been little in the way of temperature taking, so far, as the bill hasn’t even gotten through a committee hearing.

The good news in Michigan? It already has one form of online gaming: The state offers lottery games over the internet.

The legislature is set to adjourn late next month, so the prospects of passing the bill in the short term might seem bleak, barring a quick turnaround. But adding another state to the iGaming conversation still represents a positive development.

California online poker

California has been looking at the issue of legalizing online poker for the better part of a decade. But 2016 could represent the best chance yet for online gaming in the most populous state.

This year’s legislative effort — AB 2863 — includes a hearing that will be held on April 27, which is better than no hearing at all. Last year, a bill made it past a committee vote before progress stalled.

The 2016 effort differs from the 2015 push in that the horse racing industry could be brought on board with a subsidy in the tens of millions of dollars. That would come in exchange for the horse tracks giving up the right to be an online poker operator.

The bill was amended this week in two substantial ways. First, it no longer has to go through the Appropriations Committee, meaning it has one less hurdle to clear.

At the same time, the “bad actor” debate — aka whether PokerStars will be allowed in the California market — appears to have raised its ugly head again. Given the coalitions that have aligned for and against PokerStars in the past, it could stymie online poker’s progress yet again.

The upcoming committee hearing should give us a good idea of whether online poker will happen this year or not.

Pennsylvania online gaming

Out of all the states in play for iGaming, most believe Pennsylvania has the best chance of passing a bill this year.

Why is that? Legislation including online gaming made a lot of progress last year. The bill — HB 649 — reached the House floor before action on the bill stopped.

The fact that it was tied to other gaming expansions and revenue might have been one of the reasons it wasn’t passed in 2015. Those concerns are still alive and well this year, as a provision to allow video lottery terminals at private establishments is particularly controversial.

The bill’s sponsor — Rep. John Payne — has promised in the past that the bill would be considered in the spring, although it has not been taken up yet. (The bill stayed active, however, via a procedural maneuver.)

Until it shows up on the radar in a meaningful way in the next month or two, it’s difficult to know how real of a possibility iGaming is this year.

New York online poker

New York is taking a stab at online poker yet again in 2016, even though past efforts haven’t gotten past the introductory phase.

Optimism ramped up this year when a standalone bill passed a committee vote, and then again when regulation was tied to the Senate’s state budget.

Optimism gave way to malaise when the bill’s progress came to a standstill, and when iPoker didn’t survive in the final budget.

Assembly member Gary Pretlow further dampened hopes when he put the odds of online poker reaching a vote at 100-to-1 or worse.

Despite the lack of tangible progress, NY online poker is still on key lawmakers’ radar. Whether or not that manifests itself in a bill passing this year, it bodes well for the future.

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Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.