The 50-State iGaming Initiative: Oklahoma to South Carolina
Internet gaming (iGaming), which is legalized and regulated in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, was under the microscope during the lame-duck session of Congress, but it appears safe for now as Sheldon Adelson’s attempt to attached a federal Internet gambling ban, known as the Restoration of the American Wire Act (RAWA), to must-pass legislation failed.
Despite that victory, which you can read about by clicking here, iGaming didn’t make many strides in 2014. With little hope for federal legislation, online poker advocates must rely on individual states to get the job done, and while several states considered iGaming this year, none legalized and regulated.
To help make sense of the convoluted iGaming scene across the country, PokerNews has undertaken a 50-state initiative — a series of articles aimed at presenting the current iGaming landscape for all 50 states.
For an in-depth look at iGaming in the United States, check out the PokerNews feature The Future of Online Poker in the U.S. — Is Your State Next? by Matthew Kredell.
So far we’ve examined the following states:
- Part I: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, and California
- Part II: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, and Georgia
- Part III: Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa
- Part IV: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, and Maryland
- Part V: Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Missouri
- Part VI: Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey
- Part VII: New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Ohio
In this article, we take a look at the next five states (alphabetically) in quick synopses. Be sure to check back in the coming weeks to see where the remaining 10 states stand. You can also learn more about your state, and how you can make a difference, by exploring the Poker Players Alliance website at ThePPA.org.
Oklahoma (Est. population as of 2013 — 3,850,568)
Did you know Oklahoma attempted to offer online poker to international players? Well, it wasn’t the state per se, but rather then Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, owners of the Lucky Star Casino, via their website pokertribes.com, though the state agreed to let them in a gaming compact.
Still, at the beginning of this year the U.S. Department of the Interior stepped in and shut them down, which resulted in the tribes filling a lawsuit against Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn. Eventually the tribes pulled the plug on the website, but it still sits ready to go if and when they are given the green light.
“In Oklahoma, where the basis for entry into that lucrative worldwide market was laid in [Governor] Fallin’s compact, other tribes are searching for collaborations,” Patrick B. McGuigan said in The City Sentinel. “Like many other foreign interests, the tempo of involvement in state-side transactions in increasing.”
Basically what it boils down to is this... the Governor and Indian tribes agreed to offer iGaming to international consumers, but not to those in the U.S. Consequently, both would benefit while operating within the law. The federal government disagreed (some suggest at the behest of competing tribes) and stepped in, leaving things in a state of limbo.
“The transformational framework for online gaming – without bringing the poker-playing ability into the U.S. domestic market – still exists, awaiting a formal tribal partner from among Oklahoma’s 39 federally-recognized tribes,” McGuigan said. “And, make no mistake: If a simple reboot of the earlier accord does not come quickly, with a new partner for the state, an opportunity at billions of dollars in voluntary exchange – including a boost for state government revenues worth hundreds of millions of dollars, without a tax increase on the state population– will be lost.”
Oklahoma’s current stance on iGaming is interesting. Some tribes clearly have an interest, though they seemed focused solely on foreign markets. That doesn’t do those in the state much good. Still, the fact that Oklahoma is having iGaming conversations is a good thing, and if other states begin legalizing, you can bet the “Sooner State” will look to get in on the action.
Oregon (Est. population as of 2013 — 3,930,065)
“Oregon’s official stance is wait and see,” Harry Esteve reported earlier this year in The Oregonian. Not much has changed to alter that iGaming stance, which the states finds most applicable to their lottery.
“The Lottery also continues to be prohibited from offering its line and poker games online, which further limits our ability to appeal to a broader, younger market segment,” they said in its 2014 Video Lottery Marketing Plan.
Oregon lawmakers continue to watch iGaming movement in other states, though one man has already made up his mind.
“I wouldn’t support it,” Gov. John Kitzhaber has been reported as saying. “To the extent I have the levers to say ‘No,’ I would use them.”
Even so, Esteve reports that officials could feel pressure to take up iGaming as a way to increase revenue if nearby states, like California, legalize and regulate. Oregon won’t be trailblazers in the iGaming world, but they are a potential domino. Look for discussions to heat up in the “Beaver State” if and when California legalizes iGaming in 2015.
Pennsylvania (Est. population as of 2013 — 12,773,801)
Pennsylvania was one of the biggest moves and shakers in the iGaming world in 2014. Back in June, the state held a hearing that suggested most casino interests were in favor of iGaming. In fact, 10 of the state’s 12 casino properties had representatives at the hearing, and only Andy Abboud (a Sheldon Adelson crony) from Las Vegas Sands was opposed.
In addition to the hearing, Sen. Kim Ward, chair of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, ordered an iGaming study, which revealed Internet gaming could generate $184 million for the state in its first year, with online poker making up to $77 million.
Rep. Tina Davis introduced a bill to the house in early 2014, but one remained absent from the senate. Meanwhile, both Sen. Edwin Erickson and Rep. Nicholas Miccarelli introduced poker-only bills.
“Pennsylvania is now presented with a second opportunity to be at the forefront of gaming by taking a leadership role with the expansion of online gaming,” said Bob Pickus of Valley Forge Casino Resort.
With so many gaming interests – including Caesars and Parx Casino and Racing – it’s no surprise Pennsylvania is in the thick of things. They’re watching New Jersey reap the benefits of iGaming, and it only makes sense that they’d want a piece of the pie.
Interestingly, a recent study by Morgan Stanley Research predicts the “Keystone State” will approve a poker-only bill in 2016 and offering iGaming in 2017. They also predict California, New York, and Illinois as states to legalize iGaming by 2016.
“We remain bullish on the long-term opportunity for U.S. online gaming,” Morgan Stanley states.
For more, check out Matthew Kredell’s piece Is Pennsylvania Ready to Move Forward with Internet Gambling?
Rhode Island (Est. population as of 2013 — 1,051,511)
With Delaware and New Jersey already legalizing iGaming, and Massachusetts considering it, Rhode Island lawmakers have taken notice.
“As with any product issues relating to the industry, it is our fiduciary responsibility to perform our due diligence and research all aspects and potential impact, if any, to revenue,” said Rhode Island Lottery Director Gerald S. Aubin.
In order for Rhode Island to expand on gambling, which is the state’s third-largest source of revenue, into the virtual realm, they would need statewide voter approval.
“We wouldn’t pursue it without statewide approval,” Aubin said. “To venture into online poker and online gaming would take constitution approval.”
Despite iGaming being on Rhode Island’s radar, there hasn’t been any legislative movement. There are still concerns that iGaming could cannibalize the state’s current land-based offerings, but chances are those fears will subside as other states prove that not to be the case.
If Rhode Island does jump on the iGaming wagon, don’t be surprised if they join up with nearby Delaware and Nevada as a part of the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association, which is the fancy name for their interstate compact open to other states.
For more information, visit the Providence Journal.
South Carolina (Est. population as of 2013 — 4,774,839)
Don’t expect iGaming to come to South Carolina anytime soon. They don’t have any casinos, and the only gaming offerings you’ll find are charitable gaming (bingo only) and a state lottery. That’s because the state currently has some of the most archaic gambling laws on record. For example, the 1802 gambling law makes illegal any game with cards or dice. So yeah, playing Monopoly for money could be considered illegal.
Plenty of lawmakers are aware of their outdated stance and have called for change, but even if that happens it’s a far cry from enacting iGaming. Making matter worse, back in 2012 the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled organized poker games are illegal and that Texas hold’em is not exempt based upon the “skill-versus-chance” argument.
“Whether an activity is gaming/gambling is not dependent upon the relative roles of chance and skill, but whether there is money or something of value wagered on the game’s outcome,” the court wrote.
Finally, earlier this year Gov. Nikki Haley wrote a letter supporting a nationwide ban on online poker.
“Allowing Internet gaming to invade the homes of every American family, and to be piped into our dens, living rooms, workplaces, and even our kids’ bedrooms and dorm rooms, is a major decision,” Haley said in the letter. “We must carefully examine the short and long-term social and economic consequences before Internet gambling spreads.”
It’s worth noting that Haley is purported to be a political beneficiary of Sheldon Adelson.
The short of it is iGaming won’t be coming to South Carolina in then near future if ever.
Check back in the coming weeks as we bring you more states, five at a time.
*Lead photo courtesy of fc05.deviantart.net.