Which states are being actively tracked for online poker and casino legislation by Online Poker Report?
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware all have some form of legal online gambling in place. Early in 2019, West Virginia became the fifth state to legalize online gambling, and Michigan closed out the year by passing its own bill.
More could be moving their way toward the on-deck circle, too. Below is a look at those we’re monitoring right now, which will update as events warrant. Our map of legislation also includes a comprehensive online gambling bill tracker.
Last updated Dec. 13, 2019.
Momentum: Treading water
Connecticut is in the process of attempting to pass online gambling legislation, but it has found itself trapped in the middle of a battle between its tribal casinos, the Department of the Interior, and MGM.
For some time now, MGM has wanted to open a casino in the state. However, Connecticut has a deal in place with its tribes, in which they pass on a portion of slot machine revenues to the states in return for the promise of exclusivity.
The state has given approval for the tribes to build a new casino in East Windsor. That would be the state’s first casino not located on a tribal reservation, and MGM feels that means there should be a bidding process. The tribes, meanwhile say even commencing such a process would lead them to end revenue-sharing with the state. This has led to a lawsuit by MGM against the Department of the Interior.
State legislators are attempting to draft a bill which would authorize online sports betting and casino. The problem is that some of them want to include approval for a second off-reservation casino in Bridgeport. The implications of the lawsuit for that mean that the bill can’t pass until the lawsuit is resolved.
The good news is that aside from this obstacle, there seems to be a lot of political will to legalize online gambling. However the lawsuit resolves itself, some kind of online gambling bill should eventually pass. The only question is how much of a delay the lawsuit will cause. The state and the tribes themselves have even involved themselves in the case in an attempt to have it dismissed by the court.
Illinois burst onto the scene as a contender to legalize online gambling in 2017, when the Senate passed a bill with ease. The House didn’t vote on the legislation, and slim hopes of something happening quickly came and went.
The conversation shifted to sports betting in 2018, and towards a more comprehensive bill. That avenue bore fruit this summer, when the House and Senate reached a compromise. The Senate would get the expansion of land-based casinos it had wanted for more than a decade, and in the same bill, the House would get to legalize online sports betting.
Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t include anything about online casino or poker. What’s more, only land-based venues will be allowed to have online apps at first, and customers will have to register in person before being allowed to play online. After 18 months, that will change, and standalone apps with online registration will be permitted. License applications for casinos, stadiums and racetracks to offer sports betting began in December.
Despite the disappointing aspects of the bill, it represents positive progress. If online sports betting is the big success for Illinois that it has been in other states, it may encourage lawmakers to consider online casino and poker as well.
Early in 2019, there was considerable optimism about online gambling coming to Kentucky. Rep. Adam Koenig introduced Bill H 175, which would have paved the road for sports betting, daily fantasy sports, and online poker. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite muster the support needed, and the bill failed to pass.
That said, Koenig has promised to bring back a similar bill as soon as the 2020 legislative session gets underway. There are several reasons it’s much more likely to succeed the second time around.
Firstly, even-numbered years are budget years in Kentucky, which changes some of the rules surrounding legislation. In particular, bills like H 175, which seek to generate revenue for the state, require a 60% supermajority to pass in non-budget years and only a 50% simple majority in budget years.
Secondly, the state has a new governor in Andy Beshear. Beshear was formerly the state’s Attorney General and, in that capacity, was a vocal advocate for gaming regulation. Having the governor as an ally will certainly help the bill pass.
Finally, Kentucky legislators need only look next door to Indiana to see what could have been. Regrets over missed revenue should help push fence-sitters over to Koenig’s side.
An over-arching gaming bill that appears to allow for online gambling in Massachusetts surfaced this year. The bill’s focus, however, is daily fantasy sports. A hearing was held on the bill in February, but there’s been absolutely no movement on that front since then.
Some good news: The Gaming Commission in Massachusetts remains one of the most advanced and knowledgeable organizations when it comes to new forms of gaming. That may be part of the reason progress on online gambling has been slow, but it’s for the best in the long run. At the moment, it is busy assessing the impact of the new casinos authorized by its 2011 expansion bill. But that attention to detail means that when the state does get around to online gambling, it’s likely to get it right.
In the meantime, the closest thing we’ve seen to concrete progress is FanDuel getting licensed to provide online horse race wagering for Suffolk Downs. It’s a small thing, but it suggests that the Gaming Commission is favorably disposed towards companies which hope to offer multiple online verticals in the state some day.
Momentum: Strongly Up
Last year was a big disappointment for Michigan gamblers. A last-minute package of bills including provisions for online sports betting seemed set to pass, but then-Governor Rick Snyder vetoed the package as one of his very last acts in office.
The veto did little more than kick the can down the road into 2019. Iden reintroduced his online gambling bill (H 4311) this year, with plans to initiate a separate effort surrounding sports betting.
It was unclear whether the second effort would succeed or not until December, when all the pieces fell into place in rapid succession. The bill is very wide-reaching, legalizing online casino, poker and sports betting. Another bill, legalizing daily fantasy sports, also passed, so state residents will get access to the full spectrum of gambling options. The only negative is that the Senate removed a clause allowing the Michigan Gaming Control Board to enter into interstate partnerships, which might impede sharing of poker liquidity down the road.
Momentum: Treading water
The story for 2019 was much the same. Legislators considered online poker legislation for the sixth consecutive year under new leadership for the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee in Sen. Joseph Addabbo. In January, Addabbo introduced a bill that would reclassify online poker as a legal game of skill, but many months have since passed with no further word on that.
Part of the problem is opposition from the state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo. That said, there’s been progress of a sort, in that the New York State Gaming Commission has finally moved forward with a comprehensive online gaming study it has wanted for a while now. Addabbo believes that its results could help sway Cuomo and other critics.
The study was announced in July and was supposed to begin in September. Unfortunately, delays in selecting an organization to conduct the study mean that its first draft is only due June 1 next year, the same day as the next state budget. The final report is due June 1, just one day before the end of the legislative session. Thus, any 2020 sports betting legislation that hinges on the report will have to be a buzzer-beater.