While the summer in American generally brings a dearth of legislative action thanks to the various recesses and breaks that kick in at most state capitals, the fall season brings a mass return of legislators to the work of lawmaking – and brings the potential for movement on regulated American online poker along with it.
Here are five U.S. states where online poker players should watch for regulatory developments this fall that could prove critical to the future of legal online poker in the United States.
Delaware plays dark horse
Delaware has already passed laws to regulate online gambling. Now the state just has to nail down regulations and get games up and running, a process they anticipate being completed by late September.
The big questions for poker players here are: will Delaware even offer online poker? And, if they do, will they immediately seek a partner for interstate compacting?
Delaware is about as small as states get in terms of population, making poker a far more difficult sell than in Nevada or New Jersey. But if the state goes ahead with poker as part of the initial launch, that's a great sign for fans of online poker, as it suggests a larger plan for interstate play is brewing in the backrooms of the industry.
California tries again
California has been making half-hearted (and wholly unsuccessful) attempts at regulated online gambling for the last several years. A few efforts remain underway in Sacramento, and some involved in the process even have positive things to say (off the record, of course).
But all of the political infighting that has plagued the process in the past appears to still be in play. And immediate action on regulated online gambling might simply not be feasible in that environment. Either way, expect a push in the next few weeks, and look for insights into the true future of online gambling in California from the reaction – positive and negative – to said push.
New Jersey prepares for launch
Like Delaware, New Jersey has all put pulled the trigger on online gambling for real money, including poker and casino games. But unlike Delaware, New Jersey will arguably be the biggest stage to date for regulated online gambling in the United States. And the state is pursuing what many consider to be a very aggressive launch date of late November (although that could be pushed back by state regulators).
How well the launch goes – and how quickly talk of poker compacts heat up once New Jersey online gambling is live – are two things online poker players should be watching with great interest, as much of the short-term future of regulated online poker in the U.S. rests on those two factors.
Illinois has an online effort on deck
While Illinois has dropped out of view on the issue of online gambling, that's more a function of the state's long summer recess and political obsession with the pension issue than a reflection of true interest in the issue. Illinois has several industry voices – including WMS and Caesars – that would like to see regulated online gambling become a reality. And the tax revenue that online gambling would generate is also of great interest to some pretty powerful politicians.
There's not much time for an effort in the fall, as lawmakers will only be working for about a week. But it will be a week worth watching, as Illinois would dramatically expand the potential market for regulated online poker in the United States.
Pennsylvania keeping tabs on neighbor New Jersey
Our last state is something of a longshot, but we've heard from a few sources that Pennsylvania's casino interests aren't ignoring the issue of online gambling. Instead, they're waiting to see how it goes in neighboring New Jersey – and, if things go well, there's rumored to be a bill in hand that could quickly find its way into the legislative process.
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