New York and Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Online Poker
When 2022 began, we took a look at the various states with the potential to legalize online poker and other forms of igaming in 2022. We named Kentucky, Indiana, New York and North Dakota as the most likely states, all of which had considered igaming bills in previous years.
Two months into the new year is a good time to look at the progress of some states.
The movement toward state-regulated online poker began in 2018 when Andy Beshear – then Attorney General and now Governor – pushed the legislature to legalize online poker, sports wagering, and fantasy contests. The goal was to earn revenue to solve the state pension deficit problem.
State Representative Adam Koenig introduced bills in previous years, often with a group of cosponsors.
This year, Koenig did it again. He filed House Bill 610, which was introduced to the Committee on Committees (yes, that’s what it’s called) on February 28. It is “an act relating to entertainment activities” to legalize online poker, fantasy contests, and sports wagering.
At the same time, State Senator David Yates introduced Senate Bill 213 as the companion bill to Koenig’s legislation. However, Yates filed his bill days earlier; it started in the Senate Committee on Committees on February 23, and two days later, it went to Licensing & Occupations.
Back to Koenig, he also introduced House Bill 609, “an act relating to the Kentucky problem gambling assistance fund.” It aims to establish such a fund and address gambling harm issues. Koenig partnered with Representative Al Gentry on this legislation.
It is important to note that gambling expansion is a bipartisan issue. Koenig is a Republican, and Gentry and Yates are Democrats.
Kentucky’s regular legislative session started on January 4 and adjourns on April 15.
Kentucky lawmaker files bill to legalize sports betting, online poker and daily fantasy sports. SB 213 would tax retail sports betting at 9.75% and online wagering at 14.25%. 1 skin per track/sports venue. Tethered; in-person registration req'd for mobile. https://t.co/AVeXGV8BHq
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) February 24, 2022
New York Bill
For several years, the priority for New York lawmakers was to legalize sports betting. While there have been online poker and casino bills on the table for years, they rarely get any traction. They get so little attention that they often just cross over into a new year with a simple reintroduction. State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow is a current legislator that has been looking at online poker since 2016, though it always took a back seat to sports. State Senator Joe Addabbo joined the movement in 2019 but also focused on sports.
Both Pretlow and Addabbo introduced proposals in January 2021 to classify interactive poker games as skill games rather than those predominantly of chance. Neither bill left the Racing, Gaming, and Wagering Committees in 2021, so Pretlow and Addabbo pulled them off the shelf to reintroduce in January 2022. A.1668 and S.1447 appeared destined for another year of back-burner status.
Enter Addabbo again, this time with a new bill. He introduced S.8412 on February 24, and it went to the aforementioned committee. There is not yet a companion bill from Pretlow. Addabbo’s proposal is not identical to his previous one, but it has most of the same major components.
Both lawmakers mentioned are Democrats, so it is unclear what type of bipartisan support is available for interactive gaming. What we do know, though, is that the legislative session runs through the entire year. That is more than enough time to do something with the bill.
Senator Addabbo: "If authorized, New York would quickly become the national leader in online casino gaming, generating hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue annually for the State as it continues to recover from the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic."
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) February 25, 2022
As one of only two states of 50 that outlaws all forms of gambling, Hawaii has never been a favorite to legalize igaming. But whether it was the dip in tourism revenue during the pandemic or the simple proliferation of igaming around the world, Hawaii is taking another look.
A few Hawaiian lawmakers have introduced casino or online gambling bills through the years, but they almost always died a quick death. This year, though, there are several bills that at least passed the first readings.
Of note to online poker fans are a pair of bills – HB.2040 in the House and SB.2365 in the Senate. Both call for the establishment of the Hawaii Lottery and Gaming Corporation, the first step to regulating various types of gambling. State Representative Scott Saiki (Democrat) introduced HB.2040, and State Senator Gilbert Keith-Agaran (another Democrat) handled the Senate introduction.
There are other bills as well, one for sports wagering, another for online sports wagering, and then ones dedicated to a casino in Waikiki. That’s where HB.1962, introduced on January 24 by State Representatives Daniel Holt and Sean Quinlan (both Democrats), came into the picture. The legislation would require the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands to study casino gaming, limited as it would be, and its potential impacts on public health and safety. In addition, it would study the feasibility and potential revenue generation of a casino.
The study proposal starts off by noting that 48 states permit some type of gambling. That pulls Hawaiians to those states, there they spend hundreds of millions of dollars, at a minimum, on gambling. Hawaii doesn’t reap the benefits of that spending or the money that tourists to Hawaii would gamble in a casino. (The California Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas is one that is known specifically for its Hawaiian clientele.) And those in Hawaii gambling online or out of state with no benefits and no concerted efforts to address problem gambling.
HB.1962 passed the first reading within two days. The House Committee on Economic Development took charge and held a hearing on February 4. It passed unanimously, though with amendments, to the House floor. On February 9, it passed its second reading.
Hawaii’s legislative session ends April 28.
https://t.co/DjliqxsYup Strict Regulation, High Taxes: How Would A Casino Work In Hawaii?
— Sue Schneider (@SuziQSchneider) February 1, 2022
Indiana Bill Dead
Not many analysts believed that the Indiana igaming effort would find much success, but a bill is a good first step. That bill was SB.1417, introduced on January 11 of this year by State Senators Jon Ford, Chris Garten, and Ronald Grooms (all Republicans). Its companion bill was HB.1356, put on the table by State Representatives Doug Gutwein and Ethan Manning (both Republicans).
The goal was to advance the latter bill out of the House Public Policy Committee by the January 25 deadline. However, it didn’t happen.
Senate bill author Ford said that he would try again in 2023, hopefully with more momentum. If more states continue to legalize online poker and/or casino games this year, it will provide more energy with which Ford can push a 2023 bill. It will also provide more time to promote a recent Global Market Advisors study that showed the potential of $420M in igaming revenue in just the first year of legal offerings, with a five-year projection of $611M annually at maturity. That latter number would give the state $110M in annual revenue.
Indiana is flush with revenues today, according to Sen. Ford in this story, yet #iGaming is about staying ahead of illegal market/neighboring states so the industry can stay competitive/modernize over the long term. Never an good idea to try to find $ only when you need $. #taxes https://t.co/SSeyQmbQxR pic.twitter.com/nCmqebUs84
— iDEA Growth (@iDEA_Growth) January 27, 2022
Other iGaming Info
Two states – North Dakota and Illinois – were on the “watch” list for potential poker or online poker or igaming bills. At the end of February, however, there are no signs of new proposals in the works.
Meanwhile, the sports betting industry is thriving across America. In 2021, the American Gaming Association reported that sports betting in commercial establishments delivered revenue in 18 markets totaling $57.22B in wagers. That number was 165% higher than in 2020, mostly due to seven new markets in 2021.
In total, sports betting revenue in 2021 increased more than 177% year-on-year to hit a high of $4.29B.
Per Legal Sports Report, there are 29 states with legal sports betting offerings of some sort, with several more states preparing to launch their new markets.
📈 In 2021, legal sports betting handle was up 165% year over year, with record annual wagering in 17 of 18 markets that were operational in 2020.
— American Gaming Association (@AmericanGaming) February 25, 2022