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Top 10 US states to watch for iGaming legislation in 2017

27 Mar 2017

By Abby Messick
As we travel further into the new year, online gambling bills are piling up. That isn't odd, of course, but something about 2017 makes us feel particularly hopeful about the passage of a few of these bills.

Which states, if any, will finally legalize online gambling before the calendar flips to 2018? Some of these states have been chipping away at the task for years — while others, like Hawaii, are fairly new to the game. And some, as you'll see, are just trying to make improvements. Here are the top 10 bills we're tracking, according to research by GamblingCompliance.

10. West Virginia
The state's bill H 3067 would legalize internet gambling and put the West Virginia Lottery Commission in charge.

The chances of this bill passing seem slim, as the House Speaker does not support the bill and the legislative session ends on 8 April.

But even if the bill doesn't pass — or go far at all — this year, its introduction is a step forward in its own right.

9. New York
Last year saw bill S5302 pass through Senate easily, with a 53-5 vote. However, it stalled in the
New York State Senator John Bonacic, sponsor of S 3898.

New York State Senator John Bonacic, sponsor of S 3898.


This year's efforts to regulate online poker began with bill S 3898 from Sen. John Bonacic. So far, the bill has passed the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee with a 11-0 vote, which bodes well.

Though the New York Senate's budget proposal included online poker, the Assembly's did not, and there continue to be concerns over the status of poker as a game of skill.

8. Florida
This year, Florida is contemplating passing legislation that will exempt fantasy sports contests from the current state gambling laws. Attempts have been made in the past, to no avail.

Bill H 149, introduced by Rep. Jason Brodeur on 9 January, seeks to clarify rather than regulate. The two-page bill defines fantasy sports as being exempt from pieces of the state code that relate to gambling and games of skill.

Although H 149 would not deal with any regulation of the industry, bill S 8, introduced on 13 January by Sen. Bill Galvano, would do just that, creating the "Office of Amusements" to oversee paid-entry fantasy sports.

In a press release, Sen. Galvano remarked, "This legislation in large part builds upon Senate work that has taken place over the last several years. My goal has been to address all aspects of gaming in a comprehensive manner that balances the interests of an industry that has contributed to Florida's economy for nearly a hundred years, our ongoing revenue-sharing agreement with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, and the authority of local voters, while maximizing revenues to the state."

7. Nevada
Online gambling has been legal in Nevada since 2001, but that doesn't mean improvements don't need to be made.

The state is currently considering amendments to those laws in the form of AB75, a bill that would increase online safety measures and expand online gaming. It's good to keep up with the times.

Las Vegas, Nevada.

Las Vegas, Nevada.

Recommendations have also been made by the state's Gaming Policy Committee to regulate eSports wagering.

The state allows daily fantasy sports, but operators must obtain an additional license. As such, many operators have no interest in entering the market.

USFantasy offers sports betting with a pari-mutuel twist, similar to betting on horse racing.

6. California
In February, Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer introduced the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act, or AB 1677. The bill would legalize and regulate online poker in the Golden State, allowing tribes and card rooms to offer online games.

The bill would also create the California Horse Racing Internet Poker Account, responsible for doling out a stipend to racetracks, which, under the bill, are not allowed to offer online poker.

5. Michigan
The state's Senate Bill 203, or the Lawful Internet Gaming Act, passed the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee on 8 March with a 7-1 vote. The bill reached the same point last year, but never made it through Senate.

The bill, in addition to legalizing and regulating online poker and other forms of gambling, would urge state regulators to introduce rules within a year of the bill becoming law.

Currently, commercial and tribal casinos' support of the bill is iffy, ranging from "opposed" to "neutral." That could prove to be a roadblock.

4. Hawaii
Hawaii's SB677, introduced by Sen. Michelle Kidani, would create the Hawaii Lottery and Gaming Corporation and allow it to offer internet lottery, online slots, table games and poker. These measures were considered between 2012 and 2015, though there was no movement forward.

Past uncertainty regarding online gambling and a generally inhospitable environment make this bill something of a long shot, but stranger things have happened.

3. New Hampshire
Rep. Eric Schleien's HB562, introduced in January, would remove internet gambling from the state's list of gambling offenses. The two-sentence bill doesn't include any regulatory measures – not surprising, when you consider its length. Essentially, it would allow New Hampshire residents to play on sites that already exist.

It remains to be seen if this approach will prove beneficial.

2. Massachusetts
So far, Massachusetts has taken a "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" approach.

SD618 was introduced by Sen. Bruce Tarr in January. It would allow the state to offer internet table games and poker, with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission presiding over operators and licensing. (No mention of lottery and slot games, unfortunately.)

Early last year, a bill to legalize daily fantasy sports was passed. Permanent regulations must be drafted within two years; for now, regulations set out by Attorney General Maura Healey are in effect.

Sen. Jennifer Flanagan reintroduced last year's online lottery legislation in January. Previously, it was passed by the Senate, but stalled in the House.

Additionally, the Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports is putting together a report, to be delivered 31 July 2017, covering regulatory options for daily fantasy sports and online slots.

Which states will take the plunge?

Which states will take the plunge?

1. Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is a frontrunner in the race to legalize online gambling.

Right now, three near-identical bills (SB 477, HB 392 and SB 524) would legalize online gambling, regulate daily fantasy sports, reinstate a local tax share for communities, and allow skill-based slot machines and table games at certain airports.

HB 1887, last year's iteration of an online gambling bill, passed by a vote of 110-71 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last year, but fell short of the end goal.

And in March 2017, the House Gaming Oversight Committee and Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee held a three-hour meeting to discuss the future of online poker. The meeting was highly positive, and seemed to indicate that maybe Pennsylvania is finally ready to legalize online poker.

A revenue report from The Innovation Group puts potential revenue at $400 million. Support for the bill is huge: most of the state's land-based casinos are in favor of its passage.

Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
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