Which States Will Legalize Online Poker in 2016?

Written By James Guill on August 11, 2015
Pennsylvania is leading the way for online gaming regulation in 2016.

With many state legislatures winding down or having already adjourned for the year, we can safely predict that zero states will legalize online poker in 2015. While that is unfortunate, most of us have come to realize that online poker regulation in California and elsewhere is a slow process.

Below, we take a look at the odds of legal online poker expanding in 2015 and the states most likely to file legislation to legalize online poker. While California will certainly revisit that matter, we don’t necessarily feel they are the state most likely to make online poker legal in 2016.

California – Odds of Passage = 50 – 50

While we understand that a couple of bills are still floating around the legislature, we’re already looking forward to next year. However, it is too early for us to predict that California online poker will be more than a coin flip in regards to passage.

The two major issues remain regarding race track participation and bad actors. We’re hopeful that recent moves towards a compromise with race tracks will prompt both parties to continue that dialogue. Also, we’re hopeful that the racing industry gives strong consideration to alternatives that could be of greater benefit than participation.

Regarding PokerStars, it will be interesting to see whether their recent “Let California Play!” initiative will put any additional pressure on stakeholders to compromise. PokerStars has a lot of positive momentum going with California citizens and the tribes would be wise to consider a compromise.

If positive momentum can be made on these issues, then we predict the odds shift to 75% or greater for 2016. Otherwise, we may just repost this article next summer for 2017.

Pennsylvania – Odds of Passage = 75|%

Pennsylvania leapfrogged California in 2015 as the next state likely to legalize online poker. While the legislative session in PA isn’t over, momentum has stalled and it appears that online poker regulation will not happen this year.

There was a lot of progress made this year and multiple hearings held on the matter. Casinos are also lining up iGaming partners in anticipation of regulation. We believe that PA will be the next state to legalize online poker and that it may happen in 2016. The current odds we’re laying are 75% for the passage.

New York – Odds of Passage – 25%

At the start of 2015, some believed that New York would make a push towards online gaming but nothing developed until almost the end of the annual legislative session. While we don’t expect New York online poker legislation to take as long to get off the ground in 2016, we don’t see the issue gaining much traction.

Frankly, there simply hasn’t been enough discussion from lawmakers and interested stakeholders to lead us to believe that they’re serious about regulation. As such, we put the odds of the state passing an online poker bill at 25%.

We’d like to see a bill fled early in 2016 and then at least a couple of hearings held on the. If this doesn’t happen in 2016, then New York should drop from any serious consideration until around 2020.

Expect Other States to Debate or File Bills But No Real Movement

Besides the aforementioned states, we don’t expect any real movement from other states in 2016. Mississippi will probably file a bill and kill it in a month’s time. We may hear rumblings from a couple of other states but outside of maybe a state like West Virginia, we likely will not see any new filings.

One reason we predict little activity outside the above states next year is because of the 2016 elections. Most of the nation will be focused on the race for the White House and other state and congressional races. Perhaps a state or two will surprise us, but it’s much more likely that a new push towards regulation begins starting in 2017.

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James Guill

Originally a semi-professional player, James transitioned to the media side in 2008. Since then he has made a name for himself reporting for some of the top names in the industry. When not covering the poker world, James travels around central Virginia hunting for antique treasure.

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