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Pennsylvania Takes Lead in 2015 Internet Poker Race

While California and Pennsylvania appear to be the most serious states with regard to enacting online poker legislation, the recent announcement that lawmakers in the Golden State have pulled ipoker bills from consideration for 2014 changes the odds somewhat on who will be next in line to join Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey.

Both states made considerable progress this year toward the legalization of online poker and some felt that California had a slight edge considering several years of attempts and a feel-good online gambling hearing that had many believing that passage of a bill was imminent. Pennsylvania held a hearing of their own earlier this year that also showcased the advantages of regulation, which was preceded by the release of a study that found revenue at land-based casinos would not be cannibalized by legalized Internet play.

With two bills pending in California prior to the start of last week and the legislative session set to conclude at the end of August, California held better cards with regard to the chances of ipoker regulation being approved in 2014. Those cards were mucked toward the end of last week, putting Pennsylvania in the lead and a slight favorite in becoming state no. 4 in the online poker parade.

Issues remain in California

California must still sort out the same issues that have dogged it for some time, namely, who gets to be a player in the ipoker scheme and who does not. Tribes within the state and their insistence on keeping certain parties out – PokerStars and racetracks – continues to stymie progress and pushes possible passage of a bill to each subsequent new year as a result.

On the bright side, PokerStars has become a better actor with the sale of Rational Group to Amaya. California’s powerful tribes would still like to keep PokerStars from getting a starring role in any ipoker scheme, but may likely be forced to acquiesce or continue to be denied the huge amount of revenue that the nation’s most populous state is expected to reap from Internet poker.

Horse racing interests, too, would like a piece of the online poker pie and their continued exclusion will likely keep any ipoker bill in California from reaching the finish line. Again, the tribes may need to re-think their position and be less steadfast in their resolve.

Pennsylvania’s main problem named Adelson

Pennsylvania does not face the same sort of problems and for that reason the Keystone State gets the nod as the state with the greatest chance of being next to pass ipoker legislation in 2015. Perhaps the most serious hurdle in Pennsylvania is the fact that Sheldon Adelson’s Bethlehem Sands is located there.

The founder of the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling remains a force to be reckoned with and his voice will certainly be heard in Pennsylvania due to his money and clout. But the state’s other casinos appear ready to move forward with Pennsylvania online poker regulation and may do so in 2015.

A new Internet poker proposal will reportedly be introduced in California in December. Should that bill happen to incorporate some of the compromises needed with regard to more inclusion than exclusion among the state’s gaming interests, then California can regain the lead as best bet for state no. 4.

Until that happens, it appears that Pennsylvania has the lead and may be next to allow its citizens to be afforded the safeguards and protections that come with playing regulated online poker. But hope still remains that California won’t be far behind in doing the same.



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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.