Pennsylvania Gains Ground in Online Poker Race

Pennsylvania Gains Ground in Online Poker RaceFollowing the launch of online gambling schemes in three states in 2013, many had speculated that California would be next to join the party in 2014.

The recent announcement that [geolink href=””]both pending ipoker bills before the California legislature have been removed[/geolink] from consideration due to time constraints in the waning days of this year’s session has nixed that possibility. Pennsylvania also won’t be legally allowing online wagers in 2014, but the Keystone State may now be a more likely candidate to be next in line in 2015.

California continues to be plagued by roadblocks that are preventing the advancement of ipoker legislation. The main gaming interests of Indian tribes, racetracks and cardrooms cannot agree on who gets a piece of the Internet poker pie and how big that piece should be.

Also to be resolved is the bad actor issue that now finds [geolink href=””]PokerStars under control of a new owner – Amaya[/geolink]. While welcoming PokerStars seems a bit less contentious with Rational Group out of the picture, most tribes would rather not compete against the industry giant.

A new online poker bill is set to be introduced in the Golden State in December and if that bill excludes horse racing interests and bad actors just as the two bills did that recently bit the dust, then Californians can continue to watch regulated U.S. online poker from the rail. If compromise among the warring gaming interests is reached between now and December, 2015 could be the year that California enacts ipoker legislation.

But with the same issues still in the way of success in California, Pennsylvania has now emerged as a favorite to be the fourth state to join Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey. While certain matters do also need to be ironed out in Pennsylvania, the problems do not seem to be as foreboding as those currently troubling California.

Pennsylvania had what could be considered a good year in 2014 toward the eventual approval of online poker legislation, and there is still time to add to that progress. A study released earlier in the year suggested that legalizing online poker would provide needed revenue without cannibalizing the action at land-based casinos.

The results of that study was followed by an online gambling hearing that found support for legislation to be in the majority among the state’s casinos. A casino not in favor is the Bethlehem Sands, whose billionaire CEO, Sheldon Adelson, continues to fight against the advancement of igaming regulation via his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling.

When comparing the problems facing both California and Pennsylvania with regard to enactment of legislation, the lesser of the two evils is likely Adelson. Though he does carry considerable clout in certain circles, his power in Pennsylvania is perhaps not equal to the influence that California tribes have in their home state.

For that and other reasons that include the sizes of each state, Pennsylvania seems a better bet to permit its residents to play Internet poker legally in 2015 before California. Of course, there remains hope that both states can put an end to the hurdles that remain and bring the number of regulated states to five in 2015.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett