United States Online Poker Legislation
There are a total of three states that have passed online poker regulations. Those states are Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey. There are several other states that have considered online gambling legislation. Some have gotten closer to regulating online poker than others.
California is the largest state in terms of population. It is the only state that has considered online poker where the population could sustain a healthy online poker environment. California joining the US online poker pool is key in terms of liquidity when online poker eventually launches. Unfortunately, there are too many disagreements between commercial card clubs and tribes about who should be allowed to offer online poker and how taxes would be paid. Until all of the state’s gaming interests can agree there will be no online poker in California. There are two bills being considered during the 2015 California Legislature. Neither has gotten out of committee at this point.
Delaware has legalized online poker, casino games and lottery ticket sales. The state received bids from 14 companies to help launch online gambling. Online poker and casino games launched on November 8, 2013. Delaware combined its player pool with WSOP.com in Nevada in March 2015.
Hawaii does not have any brick and mortar gambling. They do not even have a state lottery. That is because the state’s massive tourism industry is opposed to the competition for tourist dollars. The proposed online gambling regulations would include poker and casino games, which would be aimed at residents. The regulations would create an online lottery commission. The bill was proposed five times in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s. It never received a vote in either of the state’s chamber of government. The bill finally stopped being introduced.
There were several attempts in 2013 to add online gambling to a bill that would have expanded brick and mortar gambling in the state. The bill ultimately failed because Illinois Governor Pat Quinn did not support such a broad measure. Discussions are still being held on the subject, but no bill has surfaced since. The state’s pension system is in dire need of funding and many politicians in Illinois expect gambling to be one of the few ways to accomplish it.
Iowa managed to pass online poker regulations in their senate in 2012, but it failed to receive a vote on the house floor. The bill did not go to a vote in either chamber in 2013 or any year after. The proposals would allow existing casinos to offer online poker to Iowa residents. Iowa has a history of being progressive when it comes to gaming. It was the first state to legalize riverboat casinos in 1991. It is now home to a thriving casino industry that is still waiting for its opportunity to join the online gambling industry.
Mississippi Representative Bobby Moak has tried to legalize online gambling to state residents by introducing the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act year after year. The bill would legalize online poker and casino games, but has been met by resistance among state conservatives. It has failed every year since 2012.
Nevada became the first state to legalize online poker in December 2011. The state already allows online and mobile sports betting, but has not legalized online casino games. Nevada has given its governor the right to enter into interstate compacts, though none have been created at this time. Ultimate Poker launched on April 30, 2013 to become the first regulated online poker site in the U.S., but eventually failed. WSOP went live on September 17, 2013. Real Gaming became the third Nevada site in February 2014.
New Jersey legalized online poker and casino games in February 2013. Governor Christie signed the bill into law after a conditional veto that ordered the state legislature to change the tax rate and increase funding for problem gambling. Governor Christie had previously vetoed a similar bill in full in 2011. New Jersey real money internet games went live on November 26, 2013. There were five poker networks at launch; Party Poker/Borgata, WSOP, 888, Ultimate Poker and Betfair. Only Party/Borgata and WSOP/888 still operate.
Five Pennsylvania online poker and casino bills materialized in 2015. Pennsylvania is currently the favorite to be the next state to regulated online poker. Only Pennsylvania residents 21 years of age or older would be allowed to play.
Washington DC legalized online poker before any state did. This was in 2011. Unfortunately for residents and visitors to the nation’s capital, the law giving these rights to the lottery was eventually repealed. There have been no discussions to reinstate it.