Online gambling in the United States is about to change dramatically over the next couple of years. With Pennsylvania slated to become the next state to regulate online gambling, players in the United States looking to play at the top casino online will have more choices than ever.
PA House passes gaming reform bill by a vote of 109-72.
— Steve Ruddock (@SteveRuddock) October 26, 2017
In the short-term, Pennsylvania will be the biggest winner as iGaming sites begin operation and growing relationships with players. Taking a long-term outlook, the entrance of Pennsylvania into the regulated iGaming market will have broad interstate implications and should finally start the national growth of online poker that the industry has been anticipating since Black Friday.
Fingers crossed. I’m tired of (a) having to drive to NJ to play, and (b) sitting around waiting for my Spin & Gos to fill.
— Eric Raskin (@EricRaskin) October 26, 2017
Enter the PokerStars Interstate Network
Once Pennsylvania establishes online gambling regulations and starts taking licensing requests, expect PokerStars to be one of the first providers to apply. While there’s been little news thus far of their Pennsylvania plans, expect The Stars Group to ramp up their negotiations to find a partner casino and start the ball rolling on penetrating the PA market.
within the regional gaming industry. The Stars Group looks forward to working with Pennsylvania and its gaming regulators 3/4
— Eric Hollreiser (@erichollreiser) October 26, 2017
What this should eventually lead to is an interstate partnership between PokerStars NJ and PokerStars PA to create one of the largest regulated online poker networks in the United States. PokerStars NJ presently ranks sixth in the US for online poker sites according to PokerScout.
PokerStars PA should pull in double to possibly even triple the traffic of NJ. A combined PA-NJ PokerStars network would provide a viable player pool that will compete with unregulated networks such as Winning and Chico. However, PokerStars may wind up playing second fiddle to WSOP.com.
WSOP.com To Grow Stronger
You may have already heard that New Jersey has signed an interstate compact with both Nevada and Delaware. This should eventually result in WSOP NJ, WSOP NV, and the DE iPoker Network joining forces to become the fourth-largest regulated online poker network in the nation. The present interstate poker network ranks fifth while WSOP NJ ranks eighth.
Should WSOP.com expand to include WSOP PA, that network would not only have a stranglehold on the fourth spot but would provide players with a second viable option for regulated online poker.
Remember when PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker used to battle it out for supremacy in online poker? Pennsylvania players can expect the same level of competition between the two regulated networks. While the PokerStars network would have the backing of the World’s Largest Poker Site, the WSOP network would have the advantage of including player pools from Nevada and Delaware.
There was a time when some thought that the NV/DE network was a bit of a joke. After both NJ and PA join such a network, players will be laughing all the way to the bank.
— Bill Rini (@billrini) October 13, 2017
Online Poker Will Become a Viable Bargaining Tool for iGaming Legislation
It’s no secret that online poker is not the cash cow that some have hyped it to be in the past. Casino games are always going to be king of the gambling world. However, with the addition of Pennsylvania to the regulated market and eventually what should be a pair of interstate networks, online poker may start becoming a more attractive piece of iGaming legislation.
No longer will states have to solely rely on online poker player pools in their state, but now they will have up to two viable options for an interstate network. After Pennsylvania joins, interstate networks will be robust enough for iGaming proponents to use as an extra bargaining chip.
Few are naive enough to think that online poker alone will sell iGaming to other states. However, a pair of robust interstate networks could provide that “little something extra” that could persuade some lawmakers to take a chance.
To borrow a line from former WCW and WWE Champion Goldberg, “Who’s Next?” As already alluded to, the passage of iGaming legislation in Pennsylvania will likely be a springboard for other states to pass similar legislation. The question now is which state will pull the trigger first?
States like Michigan, Illinois, and New Hampshire are presently considering iGaming while other states like New York, California, and West Virginia have unsuccessfully floated iGaming measures over the last two years.
Despite various reports regarding present regulatory efforts, it is hard to see any states pulling the trigger before the end of 2017. That’s not a negative viewpoint, but rather a realistic one (there’s just a couple months left to the year after all). However, 2018 could be a banner year for our industry depending on how motivated lawmakers become in some areas.
The passing of iGaming legislation in Pennsylvania should light a fire under lawmakers in New York, Massachusetts, and even West Virginia as three states in the Northeast now have regulated iGaming. Those states wishing to keep pace will need to act fast or risk falling behind.
With Pennsylvania now on board, will California lawmakers and tribal interests put aside their squabbling and finally come to a compromise on iGaming? California could have easily been at least the fourth state to regulate iGaming, but now they risk falling far down the list if they continue to kick the issue down the road.
In sum, the states to watch in 2018 will include New York, Massachusetts, Michigan, West Virginia, and California should they decide to start discussing the matter seriously. My personal estimate is we will see at least two additional states regulate online gambling in 2018. With any luck, that number will prove to be a conservative guess.