Several US States Are Considering Launching Online Poker Sometime Soon

While the growing sports betting market has gotten plenty of news in recent months, poker players in the U.S. received some welcome news recently. A few states are making moves to launch online poker in the near future.

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Pennsylvania

Most notably, Pennsylvania is in the process of trying to roll out online gaming, including poker, by the spring.

Only Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware currently have legal online poker. All three states share their player pools through a multi-state compact.

Pennsylvania hopes to become the fourth state to join that compact, which would expand the US player pool to almost double its current size. However, a recent reinterpretation of the Wire Act by the Department of Justice has thrown a wrench into that plan.

The DOJ opinion declares that the Act’s purview covers all types wagering across state lines, rather than just sports betting. The fallout from this opinion could potentially affect the existence of the compact, payment processing, and online poker itself.

As a result, Pennsylvania is likely to begin with intrastate poker only. 

Kentucky

Nevertheless, other states appear to be interested in getting in the poker businesss. Kentucky is one of them.

State lawmakers have introduced a bill that would legalize sports betting, online poker, and fantasy sports. Even though there aren’t any casinos in the state, many feel the addition of sports betting fits in well with the state’s horse racing industry.

Rep. Adam Koenig (R – Erlanger) is chairman of the House Committee on Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations and introduced the legislation. Koenig told WDBR,

“You can bet on sports on this right now illegally. We have an opportunity now to make sure this is done legally, safely, and in a regulated fashion.”

According to Koenig’s bill, players over 18 would be allowed to play and operators would face a 6.75 percent tax on revenue. Lawmakers see online poker as a possible solution to the state’s broken pension system. 

So far, the bill has several sponsors. Koenig believes it could pass the House. Movement on the issue may be slow, but offers the state’s poker players a glimmer of hope.

West Virginia

West Virginia was quick to get on the sports betting bandwagon in 2018. The Mountain State is now looking to add poker to the mix.

A new house bill, H 2178, would legalize online gambling in all forms including poker. The state’s lottery commission, which already oversees sports betting, would be charged with overseeing the expanded gaming options.

The bill also makes provisions for possibly joining interstate compacts if the issue became clearer in the courts. Similar to its sports betting expansion law, H 2178 would only allow five online gambling licenses, matching the same number of casinos in the state.

Thus, the state’s casinos would have the opportunity to run their own online games. They could also partner with other operators as has been seen in other states. 

There might be a bit of delay in passing the bill, however. In January 2019, lottery officials announced that they would focus on the expansion of keno and limited video lottery terminals for right now.

They pledged to return to online gambling soon, though. The lottery just wants sports betting to be a bit more settled before piling on.

New York

In New York, it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride for supporters of online gaming in the last few years. State Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. is hoping that recent news of a $2.3 billion budget deficit would propel his three-year plan to bring online poker and gaming to the state. He recently told Online Poker Report,

“When the governor is behind something, it moves. I would really hope to have the governor have an initiative behind the legalized expansion of gaming in our state. To maximize our potential as a state in this industry and for the recreational purposes of our residents, we need an initiative.”

It is possible that the state can legalize online poker as a game of skill. With a population of almost 20 million, the Empire State would become the largest state with legalized online poker.