What about online poker and casino??

All the talk in the last few months in the U.S. gambling industry has been centered on the repeal of PASPA and the introduction of regulated sports betting on an individual state level. Everyone involved is very excited to get sportsbooks up and running and start o take action from a betting-hungry market.

With the start of the NFL season this week, there will be movement at a fever pitch to get moving on passing legislation in more states and rolling out as many sportsbooks as possible. Of course, there is a mid-term election happening in November that could shake up the political scene in many states, so it is doubtful any new legislation will pass before January.

In the meantime, during all this excitement around sports betting, one question has surfaced that requires answering: How do online caisno and poker fit into all of this?

Poker was the catalyst

While online sports betting and casino games have been around for over 20 years, it was the growth of poker that caused the U.S. market to sit up and take notice. The introduction of the hole card camera and televised poker opened the sport to a much wider audience.

Then the “Moneymaker Effect” caused poker to grow exponentially in the early 2000s. While this caused a serious commotion in the country on a positive scale, it also caught the attention of the government, which in turn tried to find ways to curb the industry without banning it completely. The UIGEA legislation of 2006 crippled the industry, and the shutdown of the big sites in 2011 almost completely shut the door.

Through all of this, there were several pieces of legislation introduced to try to regulate the poker industry, all of which failed to get to a vote. This was a bit shortsighted, as there was a huge amount of tax revenue that could have been collected from the most popular game in the United States at that time. Now, that isn’t to say that poker won’t be legal in the U.S. – several states have passed iGaming bills that include poker – but the real question is whether or not someone who was a regular player almost a decade ago will still be interested in playing as much in 2018.

Regardless of the size of the market, you would think that adding online poker legislation, especially in states where they will make sports betting legal, would be a slam dunk. This is not the case, as it appears that several upcoming bills will not include either. In fact, there is some talk that certain states won’t even have online sports betting, restricting it to the local establishments that receive licenses.

Is online casino worth adding at this stage?

While online casinos didn’t get nearly the glory in the press that poker and sports betting did, make no mistake – these offshore sites make a ton of money from American gamblers. Land-based casinos are prevalent all over the U.S., which also would make one believe that the path to adding digital versions of these games would be rubber-stamped. This is also a fallacy, as it has been very difficult to get legislation passed in many states.

Pennsylvania will soon start to award online gambling licenses, including casino games (and poker for that matter). They will join only a handful of states that offer the product, and it does not appear that other states are rushing to add the casino games to their state’s gaming platforms.

It is difficult to say why states wouldn’t add online casino games, especially in states where there are already land-based casinos. In states like Connecticut, casino games seem to be at the heart of the delay in passing sports betting legislation. Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun want these games added to the bill, while legislators are not keen to cloud the hot topic of sports betting.

They believe that this would cause even more debate which would only serve to push back any bill passing. IN New York, the bill that did not pass in the last sitting of the state legislature did not include casino games, nor likely will the new bill that will be introduced early in the new year.

Online casino games are given a bad reputation for causing problem gambling (unfounded, by the way, compared to any other forms of gambling), and this may also be what is holding some states back. However, the hypocrisy of offering land-based casino games and lottery, which are both arguably more addictive, is not lost on the players who want to play from their homes.

It is hard to determine when casino and poker will be added to any new gambling legislation in individual states, so for the time being, players are restricted to playing with illegal offshore sites. This benefits no one except the offshore operators, so the state legislators should piggyback off the positive vibes coming from regulated sports betting to introduce new online gambling legislation sooner than later.


Our in-house expert for all things regulation, Jackson covers all major recent developments across US states relating to gambling laws & legislation.