There’s Always Next Year? Online Poker, Gambling Legislation Finding Pitfalls Again

June 29, 2017
There’s Always Next Year? Online Poker, Gambling Legislation Finding Pitfalls Again


You can now add Illinois to the list of states feeling the sting of possibly missing out on legislation that would have brought legal US online poker home.

A bill that would legalize online gambling and daily fantasy sports in Illinois isn’t dead yet, but optimism for action in the short term is waning.

Of course, New Yorkers know this feeling all too well. They’ve been teased by the prospect of legal and regulated online poker every year since 2013.

In fact, the good people of New York have seen various online poker bills die on the vine. It’s happened so many times that they’ve come to understand most of those bills weren’t all that close to passing to begin with.

From the Senate to nowhere

Senates in both states passed some form of online gambling legislation this year. However, the respective legislative sessions ended before any further action was taken.

The truth is, this was the second year in a row this happened in New York. However, it remains a step up from the first couple of years that online poker legislation was introduced. Back then, even those proposing the legislation admitted they only did so to get people talking about it. At least now they’re doing more than just talking.

Online poker legislation has always appealed to those with a good understanding of logic and common sense. They understand Americans are playing the game online in increasing numbers. Only they’re doing it through offshore operators, whether it’s legal or not, and the state can’t tax it.

They also know we live in an era where finding additional tax revenue — without just raising taxes on people and corporations — has become increasingly difficult. Add the two together and passing online poker legislation really is common sense.

Next year in New York

Common sense has come so close to prevailing the past two years in New York. Fortunately, the familiar cry that there’s always next year takes on a different connotation in 2017.

State lawmakers have adopted a new carry-over policy for bills in a legislative term. This means online poker legislation will not have to start all over again next year. The bill will automatically carry over to the second year of the legislative session. That means in 2018, New York is already closer to passing online poker legislation than ever before.

The same cannot be said for Illinois, or the state that remains online gambling’s best hope in 2017: Pennsylvania.

On the surface, these two states, and their efforts to pass online gambling legislation appear different. However, they’ve been lumped in with so many other plans, they are actually similar.

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iGaming vs. the gambling expansion package

In Illinois, online gambling legislation developed late in the session. It really wasn’t on the legislative calendar for this year. In fact, the other gambling expansion initiatives, outside of online poker, casino games, and daily fantasy sports, included a brick-and-mortar casino construction plan Illinois lawmakers have been unable to agree upon for years.

For now, iGaming appears to be paired with DFS legalization in Illinois, if it’s going anywhere.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, state lawmakers were way ahead of the game. In fact, they’ve spent a good portion of the year tossing ideas back and forth on how to increase tax revenues from gambling without killing the golden goose. It has even reached the point where the two branches of the state legislature both agree that online gambling should be a part of any package.

In New York, online poker stands a good chance of passing next year. Meanwhile, in Illinois and Pennsylvania, it’s stuck on a leaky boat filled with so many other measures it’s overloaded, and sinking fast. In PA, the issue of video gaming terminals (VGTs) is holding things up.

Throwing common sense out the window on online gambling

Even common sense gets thrown out the window when one tries to attach it to a divisive gambling expansion initiative.

In Pennsylvania, lawmakers may be able to agree on half a dozen other gambling initiatives. They could find consensus on the very controversial idea of allowing VGTs at bars and restaurant across the state. If they do, Pennsylvania may yet pass online gambling legislation this year. If lawmakers don’t find consensus, it won’t take much more than common sense to figure out why.

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