Online poker in the United States is currently a state-by-state operation, at least when it comes to regulated markets.
After Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware all started regulating online poker by the end of 2013, most observers thought more states would be quick to follow.
That hasn’t happened so far, though, and at the rate bills are dying in state legislatures, it’s hard to see many states taking up online poker in 2015.
Two proposed bills in Mississippi and the state of Washington have quietly died early in the year, ending hopes of those states regulating online poker this year.
Both bills were considered long shots to begin with, meaning that the fate of these pieces of legislation wasn’t surprising, but may still be disappointing for poker fans.
Mississippi Bill With Controversial Punishments Dies Again
First, there was the Mississippi bill, proposed by State Representative Bobby Moak (D-District 53). It was the third time that Moak had proposed such legislation, and each time, the bill had seen virtually no movement in the state legislature.
“My Republican colleagues have not been moving very much at all concerning gaming,” Moak told PokerNews. “They haven’t looked at doing any of the incentives that some other businesses get, and we’ve got to create some opportunities to help the bottom lines for gaming houses.”
Moak’s bill caused some controversy even among those who are in favor of online poker, as it included some rather strong penalties directed at players who continued to play on unlicensed sites.
Along with the typical criminal charges against those who would operate such sites in the state, Moak’s bill also included language that would make it a felony to play on such sites.
However, Moak said that if a future bill ever gets off the ground, there would still be “plenty of time” to address such concerns.
Washington Bill Dead, But Creator Believes It Raised Issue Profile
While the possibility of felony charges for playing online poker might be scary for players in Mississippi, it’s already a reality in the state of Washington, where such a prohibition has been on the books.
Activists in the state had hoped that this might change in 2015, leading to the introduction of HB 1114, a bill that would have provided a framework for poker sites and networks to be regulated in Washington.
The bill was the handiwork of player advocate Curtis Woodard, who has been working for years in order to remove the felony charges that exist for playing poker in his state.
He had the support of State Representative Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo), but unfortunately, the bill didn’t capture the attention of other legislators in the state.
“The bill did not get the support that I had originally hoped for and consequently we will not be moving forward with it this session,” Appleton said.
However, Woodard still believes that simply getting media and legislative attention for the issue will help the long-term efforts to improve the situation for online poker players in Washington.
“This is a big step forward, and presents an opportunity to fully engage the tribes in the discussion,” Woodard wrote. “I am also hopeful that the network approach we put forth remains the focus, so we are not dragged down by the endless cycle of territorial disputes, like we see in California.”
California is still seen by many as the state most likely to approve an online poker bill this year, though divisions among gaming interests in the state may still make this a difficult achievement.