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November has come and gone with no progress for online poker in the United States. It has been a rough year for poker fans who hoped to see some advancement in a country that boasts of its freedoms.

Pennsylvania is now out of the 2016 game, and the process for pushing a bill there will have to wait until next year. Michigan, however, remains a bright spot with a bill still pending. And considering recent messages from the Poker Players Alliance, there is hope that something may even happen this week.

On the federal level, Sheldon Adelson may have bought the election results he desired earlier this month, and many industry experts are now keeping a close eye on RAWA bills. Members of Congress may be ready to move on an online gambling ban sooner rather than later. The holidays may bring some cheer, but Adelson is busy peddling fear.

Let’s get into the details.

United States

Donald Trump is the President-Elect of the United States, per the results of the November 8 election. Some industry experts initially predicted that Trump may be good for gambling, even so far as to possibly support the online gambling industry in America due to his longtime fondness for the casino business. However, most of that optimism has faded, and the industry is bracing for a sneak attack.

It is no secret that Sheldon Adelson has been peddling the idea of an online gambling ban in the United States for several years. He and his campaign contributions were likely behind the original RAWA (Restoration of America’s Wire Act) bill to outlaw online poker and casinos, as well as the latest bill. The newest effort for a ban came in September via Senator Tom Cotton. He introduced S.3376, which was quickly co-sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee.

sheldon-adelson-1There are few dots to connect to put Adelson directly behind the new bill, as his recent contributions to the Republican Party directly benefit Congressmen like Cotton, Graham, and Lee. While Adelson’s friend, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, claimed to have no plans to push the online gambling ban in the lame duck session before Trump takes office, he made no promises. In fact, there is also little reason to believe he would stop such a bill should it suddenly begin to move in the coming weeks.

Rumors are swirling that a version of RAWA is being considered for the lame duck session of Congress, most likely as an attachment to a larger and more important piece of legislation. No confirmations have surfaced, but the speculation is enough to have spurred numerous opinion pieces in mainstream media publications to warn against an online gambling ban. As this Reason writer points out, a federal ban would overtake states’ rights on the issue, and many Republicans regularly hold up the 10th Amendment as a gold standard for many freedoms. However, a loyalty to Adelson might trump (forgive the phrasing) those values.

Keep your eyes and ears open for news on this. While we hope there will be no news, there isn’t much that would shock or surprise American politics at this point.

Holiday status: Adelson is the Grinch, and he is filling stockings with RAWA propaganda.

Pennsylvania

This was close. The Pennsylvania House not only passed the HB.1887 gambling expansion bill that included regulated online gaming, it also exerted significant pressure on the Senate to do the same. And when the State Supreme Court ordered a casino tax fix in a recent ruling, it looked as if the tax issue could be resolved with an add-on to the gambling bill.

While the Senate failed to act in October, there was at least one day in November – after the election – that the members were scheduled to meet. There wasn’t much hope for action on the bill, though. And as it turned out, there was no action. Without so much as a whimper, the legislature folded.

The state budget passed in the summer still requires $100 million in revenue that was promised by HB.1887 but not delivered. This leaves a deficit in the budget that must be filled. Even so, online gambling is not a guarantee, especially considering that its sponsor and biggest supporter – State Rep. John Payne – is retiring and will not be around to champion the bill next year.

Even so, quite a bit of progress was made on the issue, and members of the Pennsylvania legislature are more informed than ever. They are also keenly aware of the revenue that neighbor New Jersey has accumulated in the three years of operating online poker and casino sites in partnership with its land-based casinos. There is a great amount of hope that Pennsylvania will legalize it next year.

Holiday status: Santa is taking it back to the North Pole for repairs.

Michigan

Progress for online gambling in Michigan has been somewhat of a mystery in 2016, but it remains the only state still in play with one month to go in the year.

State Senator Mike Kowall first introduced his online gambling bill – SB.889 – in April, and he pushed it through a committee and to the Senate. He remained confident at various points throughout the year that the bill would pass, and his team was organizing meetings over the past few months.

Just this week, the Poker Players Alliance began sending messages indicating that the Michigan Senate may vote on internet poker this week. As the PPA posted on its action page, “THIS IS A BIG DEAL. No, wait this is a REALLY BIG DEAL.”

With quite a few more days of work left for Michigan legislators, this could happen and become a sweet holiday surprise.

Holiday status: Senator Kowall could be the real Santa with online poker in his sleigh.

Massachusetts

While nothing will happen in Massachusetts in 2016, the prognosis for 2017 is looking healthier all the time. A special commission created by Governor Charlie Baker and organized to include online gambling supporter and Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Steve Crosby has already held its first meeting. Research and discussions will continue into the new year on fantasy sports and online gaming, with a final report and list of recommendations due to the governor by the end of July.

Should the commission recommend the legalization and regulation of online gaming, there is a good chance that a bill could be introduced and pushed quickly through the legislature next summer. This will certainly be a state to watch.

Holiday status: Keep an eye on the elves in the commission as 2017 begins.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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