If you think online gambling is going nowhere in the United States, you have not been paying enough attention to the local news. Sure, the federal battle is completely stalled, but several states are making big moves.
Pennsylvania is obviously leading the pack when it comes to progress. The Keystone State’s online gambling regulation efforts are thriving. The state is closer to passing a law than ever before, but a three little letters–VGT–could torpedo everything.
Pennsylvania gets one step closer in long walk to regulation
The Pennsylvania Senate got the ball rolling on gambling expansion a couple of weeks ago, passing a problematic bill. This week, the House passed its own version of a gambling expansion bill. It has some problems too.
Unlike the Senate, which went big on taxes and small in scope, the House went big on all fronts. Estimates say the House bill could generate up to $400 million in tax revenue for the state, which is effectively double what the Senate plan can generate.
Thing is, the House plan is generating so much revenue largely because the bill includes video gambling terminals (VGTs). The addition of VGTs to the bill mean restaurants, bars, truck stops, and basically anyone with a liquor license could install these gambling machines.
Most casinos are against the VGT measure, but could be willing to live with it if online casinos make it into law. Sheldon Adelson, owner of the Sands Bethlehem Casino, launched a $1 million ad campaign against the VGT measure.
In other words, VGTs could be the make or break factor for this bill, which is on its way to the Senate next.
New York gambling bill adds bad actor clause
In the wake of a possible political scandal involving New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the pending online gambling legislation in the state got a new amendment.
A couple of weeks ago, Cuomo’s name came up in a case involving illegal campaign contributions. One $25,000 donation in question came from former Amaya CEO David Baazov. It is probably not a coincidence that the online gambling bill in the state legislature now has a bad actor clause.
The bad actor clause keeps out online gambling companies that took US bets post-2006. The amendment takes dead aim at Amaya, which owns bad actor PokerStars. It is unclear if Cuomo’s office pushed for the amendment or someone else took advantage of the political climate and added it in.
Either way, the amendment is in now. This means it could splinter support for the bill much like the bad actor divided California online gambling legislation in the past.
Massachusetts looking forward when it comes to online gambling
The hope is already pretty much gone for Massachusetts passing an online gambling bill into law this year. There is reason to be optimistic about 2018 though. As part of the state’s gambling expansion allowing three casinos in the state, the law stipulated the state for a special commission on online gambling.
After the latest meeting of the commission, most of the group agrees online gambling is a good idea. Now that the committee endorses the idea, the next step is a report. That report is due on July 31. With such a short deadline, realistically this report will not result in any legal changes this year though.
In the meantime, Massachusetts casinos like MGM Springfield are more immediately concerned with gambling expansion in Connecticut. The neighboring state passed its own gambling expansion bill this weeks, which includes approval of an East Windsor casino just 23 miles from Springfield, MA.