Which States Might Legalize Online Poker in 2019?

Which States Might Legalize Online Poker in 2019?

Last year, the attempt to predict which states might join the ranks of those with legalized online poker was not very successful. In fact, only one state actually passed such legislation in 2018, but at the very last minute, on December 28, that state’s governor vetoed the bill. Oh, Michigan!

Now, looking ahead to 2019, we make another attempt. These predictions, however, are based on several factors that became more apparent in 2018. This gives us a bit more confidence in several states that have shown more of an interest in online gambling.

Prediction Factors

The most obvious way to predict which states may legalize online poker and casino games in 2019 is to look at which states have already examined proposals and bills, those with lawmakers who see the potential benefits for their states and can move with determination to make it happen.

The factor that wasn’t pertinent last year but is a key component going into 2019 is sports betting. With the US Supreme Court decision overturning PASPA in May 2018 and the clamoring of states to then legalize sports betting in response, it provides a new opportunity for online poker and casino games to piggyback on sports betting legislation. While most states are not considering mobile sports betting, some are and will. Other states are putting sports betting into bills with broader gambling expansion proposals, which provides an opportunity for online poker to jump on board.

  1. Michigan

It almost happened. Michigan State Representative Brandt Iden passed his 2017 bill to legalize online poker and casino games in June 2018 and expressed the utmost confidence that it would become law by the end of the year. And on December 20, the last day of the legislative session, outgoing State Senator Mike Kowall passed that same bill through the Senate. The final version passed the House again easily in the late-night hours. It then went to the desk of outgoing Governor Rick Snyder for his signature, but he vetoed the bill on December 28.

Considering the strong support in both houses of the state legislature and Iden’s determination to pass a bill again in 2019, Michigan is very likely to succeed in early 2019.

  1. Illinois

Many experts believed Illinois would legalize online poker in 2018. The state came very close, as online poker and casino games were included in a gambling expansion bill that included more casinos, video gaming terminals, and sports betting.

The champion of the bill was State Representative Robert Rita, who has been an outspoken advocate for online gambling. He was the organizer of the year’s two hearings on various aspects of his bill, and he will likely continue pursuing consensus on the bill in 2019.

  1. Massachusetts

Members of the Massachusetts legislature like Bruce Tarr and Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby, had been pushing for legalized online poker and casino games for several years. However, they were sidelined in 2017 by a year-long study that advised lawmakers to legalize only daily fantasy sports and put other forms of internet gambling on hold. Meanwhile, Crosby abruptly resigned in 2018.

But State Senator Eileen Donoghue stepped up to the plate with a comprehensive online gambling and sports betting bill in 2018 that fellow lawmakers deemed worthy of a more in-depth study. Should Donoghue be able to follow up in 2019, the bill might pass.

  1. Connecticut

Various parties expressing support for legalized online gambling in Connecticut in 2018 created possibilities for a bill to move forward. The problem was that there was no bill ever introduced. Despite advocates for legal online gambling like the tribal casino operators, lawmakers were wary of the technology-dependent form of gaming.

The new consideration of sports betting, however, might inspire lawmakers to examine various forms of gambling that could benefit the state’s casinos, and that would include online poker and casino games.

  1. New York

There are numerous reasons that the online poker ball was dropped in 2018, including the lack of interest by supposed-supporter Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow. And more issues face the prospect of a successful online gambling measure in 2019 with State Senator John Bonacic now retired and Pretlow remaining uninterested. However, when Assemblyman Clyde Vanel took an interest in 2018, he was able to round up dozens of new cosponsors for the then-pending online poker bill.

If Vanel takes the reins again in 2019 and finds support in both houses of the legislature, New York could follow through on years of promises to legalize online poker.

Other Possibilities

There are numerous states that have considered online gambling in some form in the past, such as Louisiana and New Hampshire.

There are others in which online poker and casino games could be beneficial to reversing downward gambling trends, as shown to be successful in New Jersey. Those states include Mississippi, Louisiana, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and South Dakota, though the last two on that list are the least likely to consider online gambling.

Further, there are quite a few states that operate land-based casinos commercially with no Native American compacts in play, which reduces the difficulty of finding common ground upon which to build support for legal online gaming. And several of those states could start eyeing the technology necessary to take their games online, such as Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, and Maryland.


About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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