Don’t Look Now, But Online Gaming IS Spreading Across The US

US map made of $100 bills

It’s been over six years since the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion that opened the door for states to legalize certain forms of online gaming.

In response to inquiries by New York and Illinois, the OLC determined (as have the courts) that states could offer online lotteries, and by extension online casino and poker games, within their borders.

To date, nine states have done just that:

The pace of action may seem slow. It’s not as frustratingly slow as it first appears though.

In addition to the nine states listed above, another 19 states have passed legislation legalizing and regulating daily fantasy sports. DFS is a product that might not be classified as “gambling” in most states. Nonetheless, it does have all the mechanics of online gaming and occurs almost exclusively online.

There is also online gaming and lottery legislation active in a number of states, with more legislation expected as we move deeper into 2018.

2018 is shaping up to be a busy year

Just two months into 2018 there are already six states with pending online gaming or online lottery legislation:

  1. Connecticut (online lottery and possibly online gaming)
  2. Illinois (online gaming bill carried over from 2017)
  3. Louisiana (online gaming)
  4. Michigan (online gaming bill carried over from 2017)
  5. New York (online poker bill carried over from 2017)
  6. West Virginia (online gaming)

Legislation is already in the pipeline in several other states as well.

Massachusetts, a state that already has a vague bill referencing online gaming, and New Hampshire are solid candidates to introduce online gaming legislation this year, considering both states introduced online gaming legislation in 2017.

Massachusetts is even more likely to take another crack at an online lottery. The state was one of the leading candidates to pass an online lottery bill last year but failed to see it across the finish line.

This year it has even more reasons to add online lottery products to its offerings. Now, one of its northern neighbors, New Hampshire, passed a bill last year. Elsewhere, one of its southern neighbors, Connecticut, has active legislation.

And speaking of Connecticut, the Constitution State isn’t just exploring online lottery and sports betting, it also appears to be taking the first steps towards online gaming legislation.

You also have a full list of potential online gambling candidates for the year.

We’ve come a long way in five years

It’s been over five years since the first online gaming bills were passed, and over four years since Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey launched their online gaming industries. It’s safe to say the conversation has undergone a paradigm shift.

Online gaming is no longer an ethereal product that opponents can blindly claim will wreak havoc on the land-based gaming industry while simultaneously bringing about untold consequences on society writ large.

There’s simply no evidence of this. Rather than being a disruptive force to the social fabric and existing forms of gaming, the legalization of online gaming has been virtually incident-free. Moreover, it exists in absolute harmony with land-based gaming options.

Essentially, online gaming’s five-year track record has put to rest many of the unfounded criticisms that have been lobbied against the industry. It’s been normalized, and that’s led to more and more states are dipping their toes into the water.

Other than a few outliers who continue to cling to the “casino in every pocket,” and “think about the children,” talking points, the conversation has moved from lawmakers asking, “should we do this?” to, “how should we do this?

Lawmakers are now focused on:

  • Eradicating the existing black market
  • Supporting and modernizing existing gaming operators and state lotteries
  • Providing robust regulations and consumer protections
  • Creating a new stream of revenue for the state

Upshot

With each new state that introduces online gaming legislation, each new state that passes online gaming legislation, and each new state that launches online gaming in an ordered and systematic way, momentum will continue to build.

Steve Ruddock

About

Steve Ruddock is an avid poker player and a veteran member of the gaming media. His primary focus is on the regulated US online casino and poker markets. He writes for numerous online and print publications, including OnlinePokerReport.com, USPoker.com, and USA Today.