States to watch in 2023 as online poker goes mainstream

As more states consider regulating online poker, some stand out as particularly promising. In this blog post, we'll explore five such states and analyze their potential impact on the industry.

The State of Online Poker Regulation in the US

Online poker is currently only legal in six states: Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Michigan, and Connecticut. However, there are several other states that are considering regulation, including California, Massachusetts, New York, Virginia, and Ohio.

While it can be difficult to predict which states will ultimately decide to regulate online poker, there are a few factors that tend to indicate strong interest and likelihood of passage. These include a large existing poker player base, the presence of influential politicians in favor of regulation, and the potential for significant revenue generation. Let's take a closer look at five states that appear to have these factors in play:

Cassinos That Offer Fresh, Reoccurring Bonuses - And Their Codes

1.  California

With a population of over 39 million (as of 2021), California is by far the largest state that hasn't yet legalized online poker. It's also home to a massive poker player base, thanks in part to its many tribal casinos and racetracks with cardrooms.

Efforts to pass an online poker bill in California have been ongoing for over a decade, but progress has been slow due to complicated negotiations between the state's tribal casinos, race tracks, and digital operators like PokerStars. However, there are signs that things may be changing.

In September 2022, a group of California tribes announced a new proposal for online poker regulation that includes provisions for both tribal and commercial operators. The bill, known as AB 2485, was introduced in the state Assembly in February 2023 and is being spearheaded by Assemblymember Adam Gray. If passed, it would represent a major breakthrough in the long-running effort to bring legal online poker to California.

AB 2485 includes several key features, such as:

Insane Things You Can Do With Unused Bonus Cash
  • Licensing for both tribal and commercial operators
  • A $12 million licensing fee (payable over five years)
  • A 10.5% tax on gross gaming revenue
  • Player fund protection (similar to the segregated player accounts requirement in other regulated markets)
  • Collusion and fraud prevention measures
  • Responsible gambling requirements, such as self-exclusion options and restrictions on marketing to minors

Proponents of AB 2485 argue that it could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue for the state while providing a safe and regulated environment for California poker players. However, there are still some obstacles that need to be overcome before the bill can become law.

One major challenge is reaching consensus among all of the stakeholders involved. This includes not just the tribes and commercial operators, but also the horse racing industry and various state agencies. There's also the matter of allocating market share between tribal and commercial operators – a contentious issue that has tripped up similar proposals in the past.

Another factor to consider is the potential impact on the broader online gambling landscape. If California were to legalize online poker, it would likely become the largest market in the US (by far). This could have ripple effects on other states' decision-making around online poker and could potentially shift the balance of power within the industry.

Overall, AB 2485 is definitely a bill to watch in 2023. If it can make its way through the California legislative process, it could pave the way for long-overdue online poker regulation in the Golden State – and serve as a model for other states considering similar legislation.

2.  Virginia

Unlike California, Virginia isn't typically thought of as a major poker destination. However, a new study commissioned by the state lottery has found that there are actually tens of thousands of avid poker players in Virginia, many of whom would be interested in playing online.

Conducted by Nashville-based consulting firm Spectrum Gaming Group, the study surveyed over 1,200 Virginians about their attitudes towards gambling and poker specifically. Some of the key findings included:

  • An estimated 63,000 adults in Virginia played poker in person or online at least monthly.
  • 77% of those players said they would be "very" or "somewhat" likely to play online poker if it were legally and widely available in Virginia.
  • Revenues from licensed online poker sites could reach $22 million to $30 million annually.
  • Most respondents expressed support for regulated online poker, citing concerns about fairness, security, and problem gambling.

These numbers are certainly smaller than California's, but they're still significant – especially when you consider that Virginia is a relatively small state (population 8.5 million). They also align with what we know about the geographic distribution of poker players in the US, which tends to be concentrated in certain regions rather than evenly spread out nationwide.

Based on the study's recommendations, Virginia lawmakers are now considering a bill to legalize online poker and other forms of interactive gambling (such as online casino games and sports betting). Introduced by Delegate Danny Marshall (R-Danville), HB 2181 would establish a new regulatory framework under the auspices of the Virginia Lottery.

Some of the key features of HB 2181 include:

  • Licensing fees ranging from $300,000 to $500,00, depending on the type of license.
  • A 15% tax on gross revenues.
  • Requirements for responsible gambling programs, player verification procedures, and data security measures.
  • Provisions for responsible advertising and marketing practices.
  • Authorization for skins (i.e., multiple brands operating under a single license).

Like California, Virginia has both tribal casinos and commercial racetracks with VLTs. However, the relationship between these two groups has generally been more cooperative in Virginia than in California. This could make it easier to reach a compromise on issues like market share and licensing fees.

play poker with real money

That said, there are still some potential roadblocks to passing HB 2181. For one thing, Virginia's General Assembly is currently controlled by Republicans, who may be less inclined to expand gambling than in other states. Additionally, some lawmakers may be wary of adding another form of gambling to the commonwealth, especially given the recent launch of retail sports betting and iGaming.

Nevertheless, the Spectrum Gaming study provides a strong foundation for making the case for online poker regulation. If HB 2181 can make it through the legislature, Virginia could become the seventh state to regulate online poker – and help further legitimize the game at the national level.

3.  Massachusetts

Massachusetts has been flirting with the idea of online gambling for years, but progress has been slow. While retail sports betting launched in 2018, and iGaming and online sports betting followed in 2022, efforts to add online poker to the mix have stalled.

Part of the reason for this may be the complex political dynamics within the state. Massachusetts has a large and influential tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag, as well as several commercial casinos and racetracks. Reaching agreement on how to divide up the various pieces of the gaming pie (both retail and online) has proven challenging.

Free Games Casino Sites for 2023 - Try Rizk, Casumo & More

Despite these obstacles, there are signs of life in the online poker debate. In March 2023, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) held a public hearing to gather input on whether to authorize online poker. Several stakeholders testified, including representatives from the state's casinos, tribes, and online operators.

One interesting wrinkle in the Massachusetts discussion is the role of the Mashpee Wampanoag. Unlike in many other states, where tribes are often seen as opponents of iGaming (since it competes with in-person casino gaming), the Mashpee Wampanoag have taken a nuanced stance on online poker.

In written testimony submitted to the MGC, the tribe stated that it does not object to the addition of online poker, provided that it is regulated in a way that respects their sovereignty and any existing agreements. Specifically, the tribe cited their 2017 compact with the state, which grants them exclusivity over banked card games (including poker) in certain parts of Massachusetts.

1* Poker Casino Review 2023 - Poker Games, Software & Bonuses

This raises some interesting legal questions about how online poker would fit into the regulatory scheme. Would online poker be considered a banked card game, and therefore subject to the tribe's exclusivity? Or would it be treated as a different category of gambling, akin to sports betting or slots? It's a question that doesn't have a easy answer, but one that will need to be addressed if online poker is to move forward in Massachusetts.

Another complicating factor is the current makeup of the MGC. Two of the five commissioners – Jenette L. Ramoser and Gayle Cameron – are set to leave the commission later this year. Governor Maura Healey, who took office in January 2023, will get to appoint their replacements, which could shift the balance of power on the commission.

It's unclear at this point whether online poker will be included in any gaming expansion bill that the legislature considers this year. However, the fact that the MGC is openly soliciting input on the issue is a positive sign that it's being taken seriously. If Massachusetts does eventually join the ranks of online poker states, it could further consolidate the game's position as a mainstream form of regulated gambling.

4.  New York

New York is another large state that has shown interest in online poker in the past, but has yet to take action. Like Massachusetts, New York has both commercial casinos and tribes with significant clout. Reaching a deal on how to allocate the proceeds of iGaming has been a contentious issue, with the Oneida Indian Nation (which operates several successful casinos under the "Turning Stone" brand) pushing hard for a revenue-sharing model that takes into account the economic impacts of online vs. retail gaming.

Last year, former Governor Kathy Hochul included online poker in her executive budget proposal, calling for it to be regulated under the state's Gaming Commission. However, the legislature did not ultimately include online poker in the final budget.

Undeterred, advocates for online poker are once again pressing the issue in Albany. Last month, a group of Senators and Assemblymembers sent a letter to the new Governor, Democrat Kathy Hochul's successor Republican Incumbent Brian Higgins, urging him to include online poker in his budget proposal. The letter argued that online poker could generate $50 million to $100 million in annual revenue for the state, while also providing a safe and regulated option for New York's many poker players.

Free Caesars Palace Slot Machines to Play Online for Fun

At a recent Senate Finance hearing, several witnesses testified in favor of online poker, including Pauly McGuire (a professional poker player and advocate) and Jessica Welman (an analyst for the Daily Fantasy Sports site numberFire, which is owned by FanDuel). According to Welman, who testified on behalf of the New York Gaming Association (NYGA), which represents the state's four commercial casinos, online poker makes up a significant portion of cross-border play into Pennsylvania. “We see millions of New York players every year playing poker online in other states,” she told lawmakers. “Those are tax-generating opportunities that are going to other states.”

As in other states, one of the key challenges of online poker regulation in New York will be finding a way to ensure that both commercial casinos and tribes are able to participate. At the Senate hearing, James Kiefel, a lobbyist for the Seneca Gaming Corporation (which represents several Western New York tribes), suggested a revenue-sharing model that would take into account the different types of gaming each entity offers. “When you compare apples to apples, based on our research, the commercial casinos would receive more than half of the online poker revenue,” he said.

Best Online Casinos in the USA for 2023 🏆✔️ Legit US Casino Sites

It remains to be seen whether Governor Higgins (who succeeded Kathy Hochul after she ran unsuccessfully for President) will include online poker in his budget proposal. Even if it is included, passing a gaming expansion bill through the legislature is never a sure thing. But with advocates from both the commercial and tribal sides coming together to find common ground, there's reason to be hopeful that progress might finally be made on this front.

5.  Ohio

Rounding out our list of potentially poker-friendly states is Ohio. Like many Midwestern states, Ohio has a strong tradition of card rooms and home games. It's also home to several tribal casinos and racinos.

Ohio briefly flirted with iGaming back in 2021, when then-Governor Mike DeWine included it in his budget proposal. However, the provision was stripped out during the legislative process, reportedly due to opposition from the state's Horse Racing Commission (HRC) and some conservative lawmakers.

Since then, the issue has largely fallen off the radar in Columbus. However, there are some signs that it might be revived this year. In December 2022, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC)