Within just a few weeks of each other. California, Mississippi and Washington, have all introduced legislation aimed at legalizing online poker in their respective territories. The three states that already have launched online poker initiatives in their states, New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have all seen considerable success. While revenue figures did not meet initial expectations, these new legal gambling states are holding their own in the industry. Other states watched and waited to see how things panned out, and three of them are now moving forward with their own shot at a piece of the pie.
California was first to move forward with their efforts to regulate online poker as Assemblyman Mike Gatto introduced AB 9, attempting to garner support through insistence that California has missed an opportunity at valuable revenue by dragging their feet on this issue. Several previous attempts at legalizing online poker have crashed and burned partially due to endless dispute and bickering by competing parties that would be affected by the measure. The difference between the new bill and previous versions is that Gatto’s bill would require players to make their initial deposit in person at the casino or card room associated with the poker site. This is an attempt to curtail underage and fraudulent gambling.
Of all the states that have expressed an interest in state regulated online poker, California has a population large enough to really support the industry. Other states will be clamoring for an interstate compact with them should they push the bill through and launch an online poker initiative of their own. It is no secret that the Golden State is facing dire financial straits, and a legal online gamblingplatform could be just the boost to the bottom line that they need to get their heads above water.
Next in line was the state of Washington. Their bill was introduced by Sherry Appleton on January 12 of this year. The bill would counteract a previously passed law that criminalizes playing poker online in Washington, which is currently a felony. Nobody in Washing has ever been arrested or prosecuted for playing online poker, and the state is not monitoring Internet activity to catch players in the act, and it has not even discouraged players from engaging in licensed offshore gambling. Washington’s bill would authorize and regulate legal online poker, ensuring the possibility of interstate compacts with other states in order to share player pools, and pay for the regulation through licensing and start up fees.
HB 1114 does not include a bad actor rule, which does set it apart from other states such as California and New Jersey. The bad actor rule eliminates some of the big names in online poker such as Pokerstars due to their indictment by the DOJ regarding violations of the UIGEA law. Washington has no such rule and could welcome PokerStars into the fold if they so choose. This could cause issues with their efforts to develop interstate compacts with states like NJ or CA who are not willing to give PokerStars access to their residents. It will be interesting to see how that aspect of the bill plays out should it pass.
Mississippi also introduced their new online poker bill on January 12 of this year as the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2015, HB 306. The bill was presented by D-Rep Bobby Moak, and is his fourth attempt in as many consecutive years. Based on the fact that all three previous attempts fell flat, supporters are not holding out a great deal of hope that this bill will be signed into law.
Moak does not seem any less determined despite the state’s resistance to his efforts at bringing legalized online poker to the state. He may face imminent defeat given the frosty political climate in Mississippi concerning online poker, but he is keeping the conversation going and making sure that online gambling regulation is on the minds of the people in MS. You’ve got to respect his valiant determination to keep coming back for more.