Online Gambling Hopes Not Dead Yet in Several US States, Despite Slow Legalization Progress

Although there has been apparent significant support for the legalization of online gambling in several US states over the past several years, no proposed bill in any of those states has made it to the crucial vote that would make it a law.

Given the progress Pennsylvania made in that direction late last year, many believed that it would not take long into 2017 that the state legalizes iGaming. And those who believed proved quite wrong.

Last fall, a sweeping legislation package that included the legalization of online gaming services among other gambling expansion proposals passed the Pennsylvania House and only required final approval from the Senate. However, the upper house of the state’s Legislature failed to act and left the future of the gambling industry hanging in the air.

Legalization efforts were renewed quickly after the beginning of Pennsylvania’s 2017 legislative year. Unable to solve the issues last year, lawmakers were faced with the same problems – to find revenue sources for the state’s budget.

Massive gambling expansion, the legalization of iGaming services included, has been under consideration for several years now. It is believed that the move, if it gains the necessary support, could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in much-needed tax revenue.

The Pennsylvania Senate has recently approved a revenue package that forecasts $200 million from expanded gambling entering the state’s coffers. It is now up to the House to vote on the measure. However, it has been announced that lower house lawmakers will not be summoned from summer recess for the next few weeks.

While online gambling seems to have gained enough support in both houses of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, there are still certain issues that may prevent the whole gambling package from being passed for another year.

The addition of video lottery terminals (VLTs) at local bars, truck stops, and other facilities has turned into the biggest stumbling block between House and Senate lawmakers. Senate lawmakers have been rather negatively disposed towards that proposal, while their House colleagues have remained firm on it.

According to House Representatives, VLTs could bring millions of dollars in revenue to the state. However, opponents of the measure have pointed out that the gaming machines could actually cannibalize revenue from the state’s full-scale casinos. If the two houses do not reach an accord on the matter, this could put the whole gambling expansion idea in serious danger.

Illinois and Michigan Still Have Time to Act on Online Gambling

Illinois emerged as a dark horse with a late spring online gambling legalization push. State lawmakers were locked in a budget impasse for over two years and iGaming emerged as one of the considered and much-needed revenue sources so that Illinois be able to finally complete its budget plan.

The state Senate was quick to pass an iGaming bill, but the House has yet to take action on it. However, lawmakers have recently indicated that the legislative piece may be considered.

In March, Michigan came up with its own online gaming effort. An iGaming bill quickly passed its first Senate committee hurdle. But no further action was taken before July, when the piece’s sponsor – Sen. Mike Kowall – introduced a revised version. It has recently been reported that lawmakers may be gearing up to discuss the proposal this fall.

Unlike online gambling bills in other states, Michigan’s lacks in specific provisions on how the local iGaming industry will be regulated. It rather gives local regulators the authority to monitor and regulate online gambling services as they find fit.

While states’ progress in legalizing online gambling has been way too slow, the fact that there have been quite a few of them to have been considering that opportunity still could be seen as a good sign. It shows that US lawmakers may have begun recognizing the potential this type of offering holds. If iGaming services are legalized and regulated properly so that this potential is developed fully, the US has the chance to replicate the success of some of Europe’s regulated online gambling markets.

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