As you know, we have been carefully following the progress of potential online poker laws in several states, including Massachusetts, Louisiana and Nevada. Below is an update on the status of the respective state legislation:
Massachusetts’ Online Poker Addendum Deemed Unconstitutional
As we detailed in April, the Massachusetts’ legislature attached an addendum to its 2014 fiscal year budget proposal, calling for the legalization and regulation of online poker, effective within the State as early as 2015. Unfortunately, the addendum has been declared unconstitutional and removed from the State Senate’s budget amendment.
State officials have yet to disclose the reasoning associated with removing the online poker addendum from next year’s budget proposal, but confirmed that the bill authorizing brick and mortar casinos shall proceed. As of today, the bill authorizes only three casinos to operate within Massachusetts and the State is currently vetting potential bidders for casino operator licenses. According to the bill, the casinos will not be authorized to begin operations until 2016.
Nevada Passes Broader Interstate Compact Bill
In February, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval approved a watershed amendment to the State’s online poker law allowing for interstate poker compacts. Specifically, the amendment permits the governor to reach agreements with other states that legalize online gaming to allow for joint player pools with residents of those states. Since February, the amendment has been criticized for being too limited in scope and not allowing compacts with foreign countries. In response to such criticism, Nevada’s State legislature recently approved a bill that expands the power of the State to enter into gaming compacts with foreign countries. Specifically, the newly approved bill defines “eligible compact partner” as any governmental unit of a national, state or local body exercising governmental functions, other than the United States Government. This term includes, without limitation, national and sub-national governments, including their respective departments, agencies and instrumentalities and any department, agency or authority of any such governmental unit that has authority over gaming and gambling activities.
The definition adopted by the approved bill is a major expansion to the previously passed amendment and should allow for larger online poker tournaments and accordingly larger prize pools.
Louisiana Online Poker Bill Passed by House
Earlier this week, the Louisiana House of Representatives approved a bill, which would authorize online poker within the State. The bill is now pending before the State Senate, which is likely to make progress within the next several weeks.
Despite the fact that Louisiana passed a law outlawing online wagering 15 years ago, it has since realized the benefits that regulating Internet poker may create, specifically as a way to generate much needed tax revenue for the State. After reviewing the revenue estimates of New Jersey, New York, Nevada and California, Louisiana predicts that the regulation of Internet poker could generate upwards of $14 billion per year in additional revenue to the State’s coffers.
The development of state-specific online poker and Internet gaming regimes is a significant topic for all gaming attorneys and those interested in Internet poker and gambling in general.