Pennsylvania Remains Best Bet for US Online Poker in July

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The forecast for the United States online poker market remains mostly cloudy with a chance for sunshine. That sunshine will, of course, come from Pennsylvania, while a few other states (we’re looking at you, California and Michigan!) still have the opportunity to burst through the clouds.

July was a month in which Pennsylvania became more confusing but still close to legalization of online poker, and nothing much else happened around the country of note. But let’s take a look at all of the aspects of the American market in play as of July 31.

Pennsylvania

The road to online poker in Pennsylvania has been a windy one, and we are still driving on it. The state legislature is on its summer break until late September; the House returns on September 19 with the Senate following one week later.

Before that break, the long-awaited state budget bill passed through both houses and received final approval from Governor Tom Wolf. However, the gambling expansion bill that included online poker was absent from the final draft. However again, the budget included $100 million that is delegated to come from said gambling.

As explained here, the legislation is likely to pass but must be reconfigured and submitted, discussed and voted through for the governor’s signature. All signs point to that happening, and the Poker Players Alliance expresses great optimism about it. Meanwhile, the PPA requests that interested parties contact their legislators in Pennsylvania to urge passage of online poker.

California

The stand-off in California over online poker continues.

The last information that came from the Sunshine State was that Assemblyman Adam Gray’s bill – now AB 2863 – was in limbo. A group of six tribes, led by Pechanga and Agua Caliente, are unwilling to support the bad actor clause that will allow PokerStars to buy in to the regulated market. On the other side, the group of 21 card rooms and tribes headed up by PokerStars is firm in its support of the bill.

Gray is caught in the middle and may not be able to move the bill without compromise, something to which both sides are averse. There are likely negotiation attempts taking place behind closed doors, but there has been no word on any compromise that would put the bill before the Assembly for a vote. Something must happen before the end of August, however, or the bill will likely be dead for the year.

Status: Alive but stagnant.

Michigan

Since Michigan seemingly came out of nowhere earlier this year, the recent silence surrounding State Senator Mike Kowall’s legislation to regulate online gaming in Michigan is not particularly alarming. Kowall quickly showed in May and June by pushing a bill to the Regulatory Reform Committee and getting a passing vote of 8-1 to send it to the Senate floor.

The good news is that the bill is not dead. Kowall can urge the Senate to consider it during the latter half of 2016. Depending on its success there, it could go on for a vote in the House as well. Without much idea of Kowall’s intentions, it is clear that he has plan for the legislation, and we will see what that is when it takes further shape.

New York

There is currently no online poker bill on the table in New York. The legislation that passed the Senate in June failed to make it through the Assembly, so it died. At the same time, State Senator John Bonacic became shockingly aware that his online poker partner in the House, Rep. Gary Pretlow, was having doubts about the skill aspect of the game and would likely not remain an ally.

Status: Shelved until 2017.

United States

There have been no signs of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act to ban online poker on the federal level in months. With Sheldon Adelson consumed by the Republican Party’s desire to beat the Democrats for the presidency in the November election, there is little focus on the internet poker battle. Of course, organizations like the PPA are keeping their eyes peeled for any attempts to sneak a bill through Congress, but it seems unlikely that anything will happen until after November.

Meanwhile, the presidential race is heating up. The two dominant candidates in the race have not officially weighed in on the issue of online poker or internet gambling, but it seems likely that Hillary Clinton would be more favorable to legalizing and regulating it. Donald Trump is depending on Adelson for quite a bit of funding, though Trump has supported a wide range of gambling options in the past.

Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, however, was a staunch supporter of online poker several years ago and is the most likely to support it. His likelihood of reaching the White House, however, is a bit more tenuous. But as United States politics has dictated of late, anything is possible.

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