Checking in on US online gambling bills

Appetite For Legal Online Gambling Modest Amid Sports Betting Expansion

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As 2019 settles into its stride, it has become increasingly evident that the new year will be the busiest one yet for sports betting legislation. Our sister site Legal Sports Report is already tracking more than 60 bills across 25 states.

Our online gambling bill tracker isn’t nearly as busy as that, nor is the map of states with regulated iGaming nearly as colorful. Only four states have passed online poker legislation to date, and efforts are somewhat sparse to begin the new year.

That being said, there is still enough of a list to justify a brief rundown. Let’s take a look at what’s happening in the few states that are still talking about other forms of gambling expansion.

What’s new in New York?

New York lawmakers are once again considering a bill to legalize online poker.

The topic has lingered in Albany for almost six years now dating back to its inclusion in the 2013 budget. Retired Sen. John Bonacic had served as the primary proponent in the upper chamber, escorting a bill through the Senate in both 2016 and 2017.

That’s the extent of the progress toward NY online poker to date.

Bonacic’s bills have never cleared the lower chamber, with Assemblyman Gary Pretlow denying passage through his Racing and Wagering Committee. Despite Pretlow’s proclaimed support in 2017, the full Assembly has yet to cast a vote on an online poker bill.

There’s at least a small possibility that could change in 2019.

Replacing Bonacic, Sen. Joseph Addabbo now acts as the chairman of the Senate gaming committee and the new sponsor for online poker legislation. Addabbo has re-introduced the Bonacic bill this year as S 18, moving to legalize and regulate NY online poker as a game of skill. Its prospects still seem slim given the history and the newfound focus on sports betting in the capitol.

An effort to authorize online/mobile NY sports betting is also underway in both chambers.

Is this the year for Connecticut online gambling?

Connecticut looks like a strong candidate to legalize sports betting this year, but the outlook is a little less certain for online gambling. That being said, a group of lawmakers has put together a multi-pronged, bicameral, bipartisan proposal.

Proposed Bill 17 is an effort to amend general statutes to permit online gambling and sports betting for commercial and tribal casinos. The bill would also allow the Connecticut Lottery Corporation to bring its current keno game online. Currently parked in the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security, it lacks any comprehensive language as written.

An expansion of gambling would also require new or amended compacts with the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot, which control the current gaming landscape in the state. The Connecticut tribes share 25 percent of their slot revenue with the state, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars in annual payments.

A separate bill (H 6576) also aims to create a Connecticut Gaming Commission to oversee a new commercial casino project in the state. That, too, would be subject to tribe-state negotiations.

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Online gambling in the Virginias?

Gambling is a hot topic in Richmond, headlined by no less than seven Virginia sports betting bills. The odds are not good for any standalone effort in the short term, but expansion may still be in the cards.

A bill is on file which would allow the Virginia Lottery to sell tickets and take sports wagers via the internet. Though it remains tabled for the time being, H 2210 did clear the Committee on Rules in January by a 14-2 vote. Virginia does not currently have any brick-and-mortar casinos, but another package of bills is working to regulate such “traditional” forms of gambling.

West Virginia is also contemplating another expansion of its gaming industry next door.

A bill (H 2178) from Dels. Shawn Fluharty and Joe Canestraro proposes legal “interactive gaming” under the oversight of the state lottery. The WV Lottery Commission already regulates casino gambling and sports betting in the state — including online sports betting.

Sources close to the situation tell Online Poker Report that a separate legislative effort surrounding WV online gambling may materialize this year, too.

The active bill currently sits on the desk of the Finance Committee with no timetable for consideration.

Eric Ramsey
- Eric is a reporter and writer covering regulated US gambling, sports betting, and DFS. He comes from a poker background, formerly on staff at PokerNews and the World Poker Tour.