With the shelving of the Senate and the Assembly bills in California, the state’s online poker expansion status has changed from “clear frontrunner” to the Facebook-esque “it’s complicated” over the course of 2014.
The unresolved issues in the state have also called into question the state’s chances for expansion in 2015, leaving the door open for other states to leapfrog California and pass online gambling bills of their own. The chances of another state joining Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey as locales with legal online gambling options in 2015 are still somewhat of a long shot, but if one does, it may create a domino effect, since all of the non-Californian contenders (the serious ones anyway) come from the same general region.
If California doesn’t get their ducks in a row in 2015, all eyes are liable to turn east and it will be the East Coast that will act as the linchpin for iGaming expansion in the U.S. Among the potential 2015 candidates are several Northeast and mid-Atlantic states, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia, and Maryland.
Here is a quick look at why these are the top five contenders to pass an online poker bill.
Massachusetts is one of the more interesting candidates as the state is currently fighting a very real ballot referendum looking to repeal the law passed in 2011 that allowed for brick & mortar casino expansion. All the while current State Treasurer and Gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman has been pushing the legislature for online gaming expansion, and speaking publicly about his desire for state-run expansion.
If Massachusetts does repeal their casino expansion, and if Grossman wins the governorship, we could see a serious push to pass an online gambling bill in 2015 as something of a tit for tat measure. On the other hand, if the 2011 law is preserved, the state is likely to hold off on iGaming expansion until the brick & mortar casinos are up and running (something several legislators have called for), regardless of who wins the governorship.
A late, somewhat feeble push by outgoing State Senator John Bonacic and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow sparked the possibility of New York as a potential candidate for online gambling expansion in 2015. Much like Massachusetts, several New York legislators have stated their intention to have the brick & mortar expansion that is currently underway in the Empire State fully setup before exploring online gambling.
This could happen sooner than later though, as the process is moving along as planned. With the brick & mortar licensing process going according to Hoyle, Gambling Compliance is reporting that one key legislator has indicated online gambling may be taken up in 2015.
On paper, Pennsylvania is the most likely 2015 adopter of online poker. The state legislature has held multiple hearings, commissioned internal and independent studies, and seems to have several legislators willing to sponsor iGaming bills.
The question with Pennsylvania is how influential Sheldon Adelson will be if the legislature gets serious (Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. owns the Sands Bethlehem Casino in the state), and precisely where does the Parx Casino come down on this issue.
Thus far, Parx has sent mixed messages, with Chairman Bob Green stating his concerns over online gambling (but begrudgingly willing to be a part of it), while Parx has teamed up with GameAccount Network and JOINGO to create freeplay and mobile online gaming sites that could be converted to a real-money site.
A late addition to the list, West Virginia’s state lottery director John Musgrave recently stated his intentions to expand lottery sales to the Internet, and hasn’t ruled out taking the next step: Comprehensive online gambling expansion. Last week, Musgrave told the Charleston Daily Mail the state was “still exploring online gambling,” adding, “we feel that’s the way the industry’s moving, so we want to plan for it.”
Musgrave also told the CDM he felt the state lottery had the power to offer online lottery ticket sales now, but more comprehensive online gambling (poker and casino games) would require the passage of a bill in the legislature along with the signature of the governor.
Maryland isn’t on many people’s iGaming radars, but the state is certainly capable of passing an online gambling bill. The Director of the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, Stephen Martino, has already publicly stated they [Maryland] are “mapping it out,” when he spoke at a Massachusetts forum on online gambling back in March of 2014.
Martino’s comments during this hearing were a clear indication that even though the state hasn’t publicly looked into online gambling, and no bills have been introduced in the legislature, there are a lot of behind the scenes talks taking place.