Online Poker Predictions: Which States will Legalize in 2020?
As 2020 gets underway, it is time for the annual predictions regarding online poker in the US market.
At the very end of 2018, we chose five states that we felt were most likely to legalize online poker in 2019 but tossed in an additional three states that had some potential. In summary, those states were:
–Louisiana, West Virginia, and New Hampshire
Our basis for some of those choices was twofold. First, many states were anxious to legalize sports betting, and the idea that some of them would broaden the expansion to include online poker and casino games seemed plausible. Second, the sizeable revenue and continued growth from the New Jersey internet gaming market would inspire other states to want to imitate that success.
Needless to say, in most cases, sports betting did not coincide with internet gaming.
However, two states did want to follow New Jersey into the revenue-filled online gaming world. West Virginia was the first to do it, with two lawmakers who spearheaded the effort and made it happen. And as 2019 came to a close, Michigan built on years of momentum to find bipartisan compromise and legalize online poker, casino games, and sports betting.
General 2020 Predictions
With a new year – a new decade even – upon us, it’s time to put 2020 in our sights and try to predict what will happen with the burgeoning US online poker market.
The two states that joined the online gaming market in 2019 makes it more likely that others will follow. It also helped that Pennsylvania finally launched several casino sites and one poker site – PokerStars. When internet gaming revenue begins to shine out of Pennsylvania as it has from New Jersey, other states will take notice.
In addition, as Michigan and West Virginia begin establishing their regulatory framework and issuing licenses, other states’ lawmakers might see that the process can be relatively seamless. They will also see that most land-based casinos know how online gaming can benefit their bottom lines.
Prediction #1: Kentucky
While always seeming like a dark horse because of its past with seizing online gaming domains and suing PokerStars for millions, Kentucky had a surprise in store. At the very end of 2018, Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear asked lawmakers to draft a proposal to expand gambling in the state, complete with casinos, sports betting, and online poker.
Five years ago, if you were to tell me West Virginia and Kentucky were better candidates to legalize online poker than California, Massachusetts, or any other state, I would have recommended a psychiatric evaluation… but here we are.
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) February 21, 2019
Yes, Beshear was the son of former Governor Steve Beshear that started the domain seizures and PokerStars lawsuit more than a decade prior. But AG Beshear saw the potential for revenue to fix the state’s desperate pension problem and took a stand.
There was a bill in 2019, but Beshear wasn’t focused enough on rounding up lawmakers to support it, as he was running to become the state’s next governor. As it turned out, Beshear won and became Governor Beshear before 2019 came to an end.
Considering that Beshear made online poker and expanded gambling a part of his gubernatorial campaign, it seemed likely that he would refocus on that goal in 2020.
It didn’t take long for that to take shape. In December, State Representative Adam Koenig pre-filed a bill to legalize and regulate new commercial casinos, sports betting and more gambling at racetracks, fantasy sports, and online poker.
Kentucky seems to have put the most thought and effort into a 2020 proposal for legal online poker.
NEW: A sports betting bill was pre-filed in Kentucky by @RepKoenig earlier today. Would allow betting at racetracks and pro sports venues. Includes both retail and mobile, taxed at 9.75% and 14.25%. Would also legalize DFS and online poker.
Link to bill: https://t.co/1WLqyFe7PA
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) December 17, 2019
Prediction #2: Connecticut
In years past, the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Tribes in Connecticut had made a push for legal online gambling. They saw the benefits it was bringing to New Jersey and wanted to expand in the same fashion. Lawmakers, on the other hand, were too overwhelmed by the technology and details of it all.
A bipartisan and bicameral bill did emerge in early 2019 to legalize internet poker, casino games, and keno, and lawmakers also wanted legal sports betting.
Problems arose in several areas of discussion, one between the tribes and Connecticut Lottery Corporation regarding sports betting oversight, and the other between MGM Resorts and the tribes of Connecticut over casino competition.
That lawsuit may prevent any movement on internet gaming legislation in 2020, but a settlement or other motion to kill the lawsuit could open the doors for gambling expansion to proceed in Connecticut. The situation remains fluid.
A draft bill unveiled Wednesday would authorize broad online gambling in the state, including online/mobile sports betting, online poker, house-banked table games, slots, and an online lottery.
— Sports Handle (@sports_handle) August 1, 2019
Prediction #3: Virginia
In March 2019, Virginia lawmakers passed a bill to expand gambling, including new land-based casinos and other forms of casino gambling. The bill specifically defined casino gaming to include “online gaming.” Governor Ralph Northam signed it all into law.
Few analysts believe that online gaming is on the horizon. In fact, there is a long process before casino gambling can even begin, as the state’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission just completed a study pertaining to regulations at the end of 2019. Many decisions remain to be made.
However, lawmakers remain keen on expanding gambling further, as they will take up online sports betting in the state legislature early in 2020.
There is a chance that the stars could align in 2020. If online sports betting becomes legal and casino plans begin to solidify, internet gaming could be on the table as well.
Gambling is set to be one of the hottest topics at the state Capitol when Virginia lawmakers return to the Richmond next month https://t.co/40bBK5wYlr
— WTOP (@WTOP) January 2, 2020
There are a few states that have long been considered hopefuls for online poker fans. These remain in the “hopeful” category.
Illinois recently approved a rather large selection of new and improved gambling options for the state, and online sports betting was even a part of the deal. Online poker and casino games, however, were not. There is a chance that casinos could push lawmakers to give them that internet gaming opportunity, too.
New Hampshire just legalized sports betting and is implementing the new framework. While the state’s lawmakers do not have any specific plans to work toward legal internet gambling, there is always a chance.
New York has been experiencing problems with land-based casino revenue and now the same with its limited sports betting offerings. The need is serious for the state to expand the ways that New Yorkers can place wagers and gamble in order to compete with neighboring states. Lawmakers have shown a general tendency to support online poker, but it will take the right lawmakers to propose and shepherd a bill through the legislature.
So where I am standing in New Jersey its legal to play online @partypoker USA but if I get on this ferry to New York I am breaking the law – not sure this is sensible way to regulate online poker but has very nice coffee 💪 pic.twitter.com/KSf4AW0QoZ
— Rob Yong (@rob_yong_) September 18, 2019
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