Online Poker State of Affairs: 2015 Legislation Roundup

Posted on December 25th, 2015 by Jon Pineda

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PokerStars’ Daniel Negreanu and Jason Somerville joined other poker pros in spreading online poker awareness in California, just one state that considered legalizing the market in 2015. (Image: pokernews.com)

Legalized online poker has the potential to provide increased tax revenues for state governments and deliver consumer safeguards to a market that is predominantly unregulated.

Authorizing Internet poker is seemingly a “win-win” for residents wishing to play and lawmakers, the leading reason the issue has matured in popularity among politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Online poker combines two rather burdensome topics for Republicans and Democrats.

Gambling has traditionally been an industry most conservative lawmakers denounce or steer clear of, but any way to increase fiscal income for government without raising taxes on citizens is always welcomed by the GOP.

On the left side, Democrats historically aren’t as opposed to the expansion of gambling, though many believe casinos prey on the lower classes and those most at risk. Of course, Dems too welcome any form of increasing bureaucracy budgets.

It was a contentious and at times heated debate. Here’s what happened with Internet poker in 2015, and well, what didn’t.

California Dreaming

If you ask any online gaming executive with a vested interest in seeing iPoker expand which state they’d like to see join Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, chances are their answer will be California.

California was home to perhaps the most movement in the war against online poker prohibition, Amaya and a coalition of tribes rushing in PokerStars celebrities to fuel the charge similar to Major General Pickett at Gettysburg.

The Californians for Responsible iPoker organization presented its case at tribal casinos and card rooms across the Golden State.

Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-District 43) and Adam Gray (D-District 21) tried to push legislation in Sacramento, and though the efforts failed this year due to pushback from racetracks and other Native American tribes, their conquest will likely continue once the assembly reconvenes in January.

Pennsylvania: Stone’s Throw

Another attractive region to online gaming operators is the Keystone State.

The nation’s sixth most populous state seems rather responsive to online poker legislation, a Democrat once again serving as governor for the first time since Ed Rendell oversaw the state approving several land-based casino destinations.

But Governor Tom Wolf’s first year in office hasn’t been exactly productive, the former businessman failing to reach a budget with the Republican-controlled legislature for more than 100 days past its supposed deadline.

Wolf hasn’t publicly said he’s against online poker, only confirming that it can’t raise enough revenues to fund his increased spending ideals.

State Rep. John Payne (R-District 106), the lead sponsor of an online gambling bill, told a local news reporter he feels “very comfortable that some forms of gaming” will become law in the coming months.

New York Not Likely

New York spent much time deliberating online poker in 2015 thanks to State Senator John Bonacic (R-District 42). Bonacic’s one-man mission to bring iPoker to the Empire State gained much traction, a hearing even being held in September to discuss its virtues.

The odds of New York legalizing the market seemed strong, but that all changed in October when the daily fantasy sports (DFS) scandal exploded.

Following the revelation that a DraftKings employee won $350,000 on rival FanDuel allegedly using insider information, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman trounced on the DFS platforms, a quick judgment that could hamper further online gaming growth in 2016.

New Jersey Blooming Garden

One of the states with legalized iGambling, New Jersey’s budding market is only going to continue blossoming in 2016 thanks to the Garden State authorizing PokerStars to enter its fray.

Online poker has largely struggled as sufficient player pools have drained the Internet card rooms, but bringing the world’s largest poker network to residents should increase participation, especially if New Jersey takes steps to share liquidity.

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