When New Jersey online gambling goes live on November 26th they will become the third state with an online gaming industry, and the natural question is; which state or states will be the next dominoes to fall?
Below you will find details on the five states most likely to following in the footsteps of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.
Massachusetts flirted with online gaming bills during the 2013 legislative session, both as standalone bills – Senate Bill 101 and Senate Bill 197—both of which went nowhere, as well as an attempt to attach online gaming to the state budget, which also failed this past year.
So, if the bills have gone nowhere why is Massachusetts at the top of my short-list for potential 2014 online gaming legislation? Because, legislators are likely waiting for the recently enacted brick & mortar casino industry to get off the ground first, before moving on to online gambling.
In 2012, Massachusetts passed a casino bill that permits up to three resort casinos and a single slots parlor to be built in the state, and as developers grab their shovels and prepare for the construction phase the next logical step would seem to be an expansion into online gambling.
Another reason Massachusetts is a good bet to be one of the next states to offer online gambling is the advocacy of the state’s treasurer, Steve Grossman, who is very receptive to online gambling. Grossman is an advocate of online gambling (so long as it runs through the state lottery) and has been very vocal about bringing online gambling to Massachusetts.
When I spoke with the Poker Players Alliance’s (PPA) Rich Muny on his podcast in January of 2013 he told me 2013 was unlikely to bring about a bill in Massachusetts, but Massachusetts was a legitimate contender to pass online poker legislation in 2014. So far so good on that prediction.
With neighboring New Jersey set to launch online gaming at the end of the month, Pennsylvania is another state that has seen preliminary talks started regarding online gambling.
So far the only attempt at legalizing and regulating online gambling was a bill introduced in 2013 that has since been shelved, with opposition lawmakers asserting that the focus should be on the burgeoning brick & mortar casino industry in the state first.
According to State Senator Kim Ward (R-Hempfield) Pennsylvania lawmakers are keen on watching the process play out in New Jersey, as well as in Nevada and Delaware, before moving forward with their own iGaming plans. According to Ward, there is some concern about online gaming negatively impacting the brick & mortar casino industry in the state –an industry that was just recently expanded to include table games in 2010:
“We want (gambling businesses) to survive here and to prosper, because it puts money in our coffers,”
Another problem facing online gambling proponents in Pennsylvania is the presence of Sheldon Adelson, who is perhaps online gaming’s most vocal and most powerful critic. Adelson is the owner of the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is likely to fight online gaming expansion efforts tooth and nail in the Keystone State.
Still, rumors are already swirling about a potential 2014 iGaming bill, but it will take some doing to navigate the roadblocks outlined above.
Certain forces in California have been trying to pass online gambling bills for a number of years now, with attempts dating back as far as 2008, but the most populous state in the US has seen every attempt stalled at some point in the process.
The good news is that the current tribal and casino interests in California are pretty much split right down the middle, so it will perhaps only take a single “Nay” turning into an “Ay” for California to pass online gaming legislation – and it seems to be heading in that direction.
Online gaming in California could be accelerated if New Jersey can provide the empirical evidence needed to demonstrate that online gaming doesn’t cannibalize live gambling, and that online gambling can bring in plenty of revenue.
The latest indications coming out of California from Richard Schuetz, the head of the state’s Gambling Control Commission, has California leaning towards an online poker-only bill, much like their neighbor Nevada enacted in 2011.
In an interview with Marco Valerio, Scheutz stated the key problem facing a comprehensive iGaming bill as one of competition between brick & mortar gaming interests and online:
“… there’s a belief among our tribal partners that the Internet as a distribution network for gambling products could in some ways cannibalize the brick-and-mortar environment.”
A poker-only bill could be the compromise the two opposing forces in California need to get the ball rolling on Internet gambling.
Illinois has brought their state lottery online, and the state already allows residents to bet on the horses online, so it doesn’t require too much of a leap of faith to see the potential for online poker or online gaming in Illinois down the road.
Rumors have potential online gambling bills being introduced as a stand-alone or even perhaps riding in on the coattails of the online horse-racing bill which is set to expire in 2014 and will need to be renewed.
My decision to offer up two different states for my fifth choice is just a ploy to keep me from having to make a tough decision, since I’d rank both Maryland and New York chances of passing an iGaming bill as a long-shot, but ahead of any other state. Since I couldn’t come up with a reason to choose one over the other, I chose them both.
Both states have been rumored to be exploring their online gaming options and both states have the population bases to create a sustainable online poker market. However, both states seem to be following Pennsylvania’s lead, and taking a “wait and see what happens in New Jersey first” approach.