Poker players in the United States end yet another month without any type of online poker expansion but with possibilities still on the table. It feels as if each month’s recap reads the same, with the poker industry holding out hope that all of the efforts throughout the year will not have been in vain.
Pennsylvania and Michigan bills to legalize online gaming are not yet dead, and lame duck sessions might be the key to moving forward. However, the lame duck United States Congress could follow suit and try to give Sheldon Adelson a happy Thanksgiving by sneaking his latest RAWA effort on to a must-pass bill. The only thing we know for certain is that the Poker Players Alliance will be on its toes to monitor all of the possibilities over the next two months.
Let’s take a look at what happened in October to get us to this point.
In September, online gambling opponent Sheldon Adelson put his money to work in the United States Congress. Beneficiaries of some of his latest political contributions came up with a new version of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). Senator Tom Cotton introduced the bill – S.3376 – and Senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee signed on as co-sponsors.
The bill still has no name, and the title reads: “A bill to ensure the integrity of laws enacted to prevent the use of financial instruments for funding or operating online casinos are not undermined by legal opinions not carrying the force of law issued by Federal Government lawyers.” S.3376 has been read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, where it has remained since September 21.
According to an exclusive interview from Gambling Compliance with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, there will be no lame duck movement on an internet gambling ban by his hands. He denied rumors that he will be doing the bidding of Adelson in the last 2016 session of Congress to push RAWA. However, that doesn’t mean someone else wouldn’t take the lead. With Reid’s statement, “I, personally, don’t plan on doing anything,” it leaves the door wide open for other Adelson friends to get it done.
Sen. Reid tells @GamblingComp he has no intention of pushing RAWA in lame duck session. Says it is political pay back for Adelson's PAC$-JP— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) October 17, 2016
In a year when the American political landscape has shown that nearly anything can happen, poker players and fans should keep their eyes on men like Cotton and Graham in the Senate. Adelson is certainly watching.
Status: Still lurking, could be serious.
Just when we thought it was over, it wasn’t. And that is a good thing for online poker supporters hanging their hopes on the idea that Pennsylvania will become the fourth state to legalize and regulate it.
While Pennsylvania’s legislature wasn’t in session most of the month of October, there was enough time to shake things up. It started with the House Gaming Oversight Committee holding a public hearing in the middle of the month, during which numerous people testified about the urgency of legalizing online gambling to address revenue issues and protect consumers. In addition to the House call for action, Governor Tom Wolf also encouraged the Senate to act, and nine casinos sent a letter to the lawmakers asking for online gambling legislation to be passed.
There was added incentive for the Senate to pass a larger gaming bill due to a State Supreme Court ruling that required a quick fix to local casino taxes. So the Senate did act, but only on the tax issue. They amended an entirely different bill – HB 1887 – to add the new, extensive tax language to legislation focused on responsible gaming administration.
HB 1887 passes PA House 110-71 and is now sent to the PA Senate. PA residents look for email from PPA on how to help— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) October 27, 2016
In response, the House passed its original gambling reform bill that included online gambling, and they passed that on to the Senate for action.
Both houses of the Pennsylvania legislature are now in recess until after the November 8 elections. The official schedule shows that the House returns to meet on November 14 and 15, while the Senate is set to reconvene only on November 16. Of course, lawmakers can schedule other days on the calendar, but there is officially only one day left for the Senate to act on the bill in 2016.
The Poker Players Alliance is strongly encouraging people to contact Pennsylvania lawmakers before the middle of November to show massive support for online gambling.
Status: Holding on for one more day.
At several points throughout 2016, Michigan has been mentioned as a possible online gambling opportunity. State Senator Mike Kowall introduced SB 889 in April and hosted a positive committee hearing in May. And in June, that Committee on Regulatory Reform passed the bill by an 8-to-1 vote to send it to the Senate floor for debate.
Sen. Kowall pulled me aside. Stressed the importance of MI #poker players contacting their state lawmakers. Makes a difference he says!-jp— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) May 4, 2016
Not much information has been forthcoming since that time, but CardPlayer spoke to Kowall in October. The Senator noted that there is “plenty of time” to pass the online gambling bill before the end of 2016, and a group of lawmakers were meeting about it in October and November to work on the details. Considering the state legalized online lottery sales in 2014, the idea of adding poker and casino games to the mix is not far-fetched.
Status: Curiously still in play.
There is little chance that any bill will be introduced in 2016 to legalize online poker or casino games, but the likelihood of it happening in 2017 continues to increase.
Earlier this year, Governor Charlie Baker created a special commission to study online gaming as part of a larger economic development project. Part of the directive included the commission to hold its first meeting by November 1. As it turns out, the group is set to meet on October 31, complete with lawmakers, legal minds, and gaming experts. The Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports is going to be led by Senator Eileen Donoghue and Representative Joseph Wagner, and Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman and online gambling proponent Steve Crosby will be in attendance as well.
VOTE: Commission votes to appoint Chairman Steve Crosby to the state's new #DFS/Online Study Commission.— MA Gaming Commission (@MassGamingComm) September 8, 2016
The commission must submit its final report and recommendations to the governor by the end of July 2017, and analysts say it is very likely that a bill to legalize some form of online gambling will be introduced at that time.
Status: Very possible in 2017.
Status: Shelved until 2017
Status: Shelved until 2017.
Status: Possible in 2017.