With recent developments in the industry, the United States looks to be on the cusp of an iGaming boom that would rival the online poker boom of the early 2000s. But with many states still in the process of introducing bills and discussing legislation, it’s still unclear just how many states will benefit from the additional tax revenue a regulated iGaming industry would generate.
So what is the current state of legality of iGaming in the US? Before we get to that, let’s see what exactly kick-started this once dormant industry.
New Jersey and The Supreme Court Ruling
Since 2013, online casinos have been operating within the state of New Jersey. It has been a massive success with well over $100 million generated in tax revenues during that time. Believe it or not, online casinos now bring in more money within the state than the bricks and mortar casinos in Atlantic City. But it wasn’t until the state government challenged the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA), that other states truly started taking notice.
That challenge began in 2014 and it took four years and considerable legal costs before a ruling was made. On the 14th of May 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that PASPA was unconstitutional, paving the way for legal online sports betting in New Jersey.
One of the first questions posed in the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling was ‘can you gamble online in NJ?’ with many players in the US wondering if they could take advantage of this new development. But while NJ residents were free to enjoy a game of poker or bet on their sport of choice, those outside state lines weren’t quite so fortunate.
The New Jersey government made it clear that any online iGaming activity was to be strictly limited to players within state limits. However, as terrible as it might have seemed at the outset, this was actually a blessing of sorts for players in other states.
Other states follow suit
It didn’t take too long for other states to realize that sports betting was a genuine money maker that would swell state coffers and generate new jobs for locals. By the end of 2018, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island had joined Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey in legalizing sports betting.
To date, 18 states have passed legislation while a further six are extremely close to setting up sports betting infrastructure. The remaining states with the exception of Idaho, Wisconsin, and Utah are currently discussing bills. The outlook for many of those states looks quite favorable, and within the next two years, we could see the sports betting market become an almost nationwide industry.
But what about online poker and other casino games?
Although sports betting isn’t quite what you would call synonymous with online poker or any other casino games, the two industries fall under the iGaming umbrella and are intrinsically linked because of the legislation that governs them. And while the legalization of sports betting doesn’t always equate to the automatic legalization of online casinos, it certainly opens the door.
With the vast majority of states recognizing that their legislation must include provisions for mobile or online betting, iGaming lobbyists found it a simple enough matter to push forward legislation for the online casino industry. After all, if sports betting is legal, why not poker or blackjack?
Even so, there are currently only four states in the USA that have fully regulated online poker industries. These states are New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. On the other hand, Michigan and West Virginia have passed their legislation for online poker but are yet to start providing gaming services.
Interestingly, while Nevada allows online poker and sports betting, they have moved to protect their land-based casino industry by not allowing online casinos to operate within state lines. This means that at the moment, only three states offer full online casino services. But as we said earlier, once state legislators allow sports betting, it’s only a matter of time before online casinos and poker will follow suit.
What this means for the industry
There are several iGaming heavyweights already operating within the USA and it seems probable that they will be the go-to platforms once each state passes its own legislation. However, the expected boom will no doubt create a demand for services and relevant software that will see the creation of many US-based iGaming startups.
This along with the expected rise in job opportunities could well provide the US economy with a much-needed shot in the arm. It would be a development tinged with irony given that the iGaming industry was one that was, until very recently, frowned upon by lawmakers and much of society.
In fact, the general view of iGaming as a whole has changed a great deal in recent times. Games such as poker have gone through such a profound image change that some are, quite justifiably, now considered mind sports on a par with the likes of chess. This newer, cleaner image has led to a significant shift in attitudes and, as a result, opened up the industry to an entirely new demographic.
Should legislators make the natural progression from the legalization of sports betting to the legalization of iGaming as a whole, games such as online poker and blackjack could become just as commonplace as the likes of Angry Birds or Tetris.
Whatever happens regarding the legality of iGaming, one thing is clear — things will never be the same again. And for iGaming fans, that is wonderful news indeed.