US Online Poker Legislation: 2014 in Review

Online Poker in United States2014 was an interesting year for online poker in the United States. Players were able to take part in online poker gaming if living or visiting Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware, a first for the US. The year started off well but opponents of online gambling in the US got on the offensive and began to try and push legislation that would disallow online gambling yet again in the states. Online poker would soon be on the defensive with several legislators and gambling parties trying to stop the online poker movement.

The big worry toward the end of 2014 included Sheldon Adelson, the chairman of the Las Vegas Sands. Adelson was trying to push an internet gambling ban and took the initiative to try for a last minute push for the ban at the end of the year, lame-duck session. This did not happen however, and poker players can breathe a little easier, at least for some time.

In the early months of 2014, a new piece of legislation was introduced titled the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which was supported by Adelson. The legislation was created by Senator Lindsey Graham and Representative Jason Chaffetz and would have stopped online poker by not allowing financial institutions to process payments. The bill has not moved forward but could be a potential threat for 2015.

On a state level, the three states offering online poker and gambling options gave other states the push to consider such gaming as well. California and Pennsylvania were top contenders to be the next to launch online poker gaming but the end of 2014 came with no legislation enacted. Both states were exploring the option and legislators could not agree on how to launch the option, especially in California.

In the state of California, tribes, card rooms and legislators had a vested interest in online poker and each group wanted to be heard and have their say. This caused issues with creating legislation that would work for each group. Opinions differed and while some tribes wanted to see bad actor clauses that would keep groups such as PokerStars from operating in the state, others wanted to make sure the clause was not included in legislation.

Bad actor clauses were the main contention to keep groups divided in the state. With a bad actor clause, any group that was involved in offering online gaming in the US after the UIGEA in 2006 would not be allowed to operate. This would of course rule out PokerStars, which was not what a specific few tribes, card rooms and of course the online poker site want. Horse racing tracks were also part of the discussion as some wanted to leave them out while the tracks wanted to be involved in the industry. These issues caused the state to not pass legislation in 2014.

The main opinion for other states in the US seemed to be that individual states wanted to see if Adelson would be able to get a federal ban on online gaming. If this happened, all efforts would have been for naught. Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have also had a slow start and not earned as much in revenues as projected which have given other states pause.

For 2015, it can be expected that the three states will push harder to offer online gaming and hopefully see better earnings than the past year. The states may also begin to work together with interstate poker which was considered in 2014. Adelson will surely continue to push for a federal ban and other states may begin to try and pass legislation to begin offering online poker and/or online casino gaming. We shall see just what happens over the coming weeks and months to see if the US online gaming industry can continue grow or if there will be a halt in gaming due to federal legislation banning the option.