California isn’t the only state where online gaming bills were introduced in early 2015, but as it stands the Golden State is the only one with an active online gaming bill following the scrapping of Mississippi’s online gaming bill and Washington State’s online poker bill.
Neither state was considered a solid candidate for online gaming expansion in 2015, but there was some level of optimism, particularly in Washington State once the bills were introduced into the legislatures.
Now iGaming expansion in 2015 will once again fall on California, and perhaps Pennsylvania, although the state has yet to see an online gaming bill introduced during this legislative session.
Washington State: Undoing an Overreaching Law
Washington State’s only poker efforts were spearheaded by poker advocate Curtis Woodard, who has spent the better part of the last five years embarking on what many considered little more than a fool’s errand.
Woodard, and his grassroots lobbying group, the Washington Internet Poker Initiative, have been calling for the state legislature to overturn a 2006 law that made playing online poker a felony in the Evergreen State.
Initially they were unable to gain any momentum in the legislature, so Woodard and company adopted a new approach in 2013, attempting to get online poker on the ballot as an initiative, and thereby forcing the legislature to deal with the issue. When the ballot initiative fell short many would have packed it in, having giving it the old college try, but not Woodard.
Woodard went back to the drawing board and came up with another bill draft (which would eventually become HB 1114), and in 2015 his proposed legislation finally found a champion in the Washington State legislature in the form of Representative Sherry Appleton.
Appleton introduced the bill in January, but was unable to garner enough support for a hearing prior to the legislative deadline, effectively ending any online poker legislative hopes for 2015.
Woodard is already looking ahead to next year, and considering his history of stick-to-itiveness and the progress made in 2015, there is a good chance even more progress will be made on this front in 2016.
Mississippi: If at first You Don’t Succeed…
Since the Department of Justice effectively shutdown the online poker industry in the United States in April of 2011, Mississippi Representative Bobby Moak has been touting the potential of legalized iGaming in the state.
Since 2012 Moak has been advocating for the state to expand into online gambling, and in what has become a yearly ritual, Moak introduced a bill to legalize online gambling in Mississippi this year, dubbed The Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act Of 2015.
Unfortunately, like all of his previous attempts, Moak’s 2015 online gaming bill was unable to make it out of committee and simply withered and died on the vine.
Still, don’t expect Moak to give up. I fully expect Representative Moak to introduce the Mississippi Lawful Internet Gaming Act of 2016 next January, particularly if Mississippi’s gaming industry continues to see their revenues dip.
As in other locales, Mississippi’s brick & mortar casino industry has been on the decline in recent years (two casinos were shuttered in 2014); this despite an expansion of land-based gaming in 2005 – this expansion was extremely successful as it helped the Gulfport area recover following Hurricane Katrina.
Moak sees online gaming as a way to further bolster the land-based gaming industry – something he claims his republican colleagues don’t have the necessary level of concern about.
In a recent interview with PokerNews.com, Moak brushed aside one of the primary complaints of online gaming expansion: The underwhelming revenue numbers generated in the three states with legalized online gambling, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware. In the interview Moak stated, “We all know the numbers weren’t as huge as some people thought they would be, but my position on Internet gaming is just to give the industry options it needs in this changing market.”
Moak may have some added ammunition in 2016, as Mississippi commissioned an online gambling study last year – the report has been submitted according to multiple sources – but the findings have yet to be made publicly available. Based on similar reports in other states like Pennsylvania, the findings should paint a positive picture of the potential impact of online gambling in Mississippi, and help bolster Moak’s arguments.
Is 2015 THE YEAR for California?
With Washington State and Mississippi seeing their attempts at online expansion fall by the wayside the full attention of the industry will immediately turn back to California.
While many people will say everything is lined up for something to get done in 2015 (an off-election year) there are still some serious issues to be resolved in California, and as we’ve already seen with AB 9 and AB 167, one group comes out in support while the other vilifies the bill.