The last week and a half has seen significant forward movement on the online poker front in the United States. There were at least four positive (to varying degrees) items and one negative.
On the positive side small steps forward include a California lawmaker introducing a bill to regulate online poker. It joins a second bill that had been introduced in December. Hearings should begin soon on them.
Massachusetts lawmakers, not wanting to be left out of the forward momentum, have introduced a couple of bills to broaden online lottery sales and gaming. It follows a state government report from December that noted the state was beginning to lose the ability reap the most from online gaming due to increased competition and actions from various states and the federal government.
The big news comes from New Jersey. In December the state legislature passed a bill authorizing online gaming. They sent it to Governor Chris Christie’s desk. On February 7, some saw another set back when Christie “conditionally” vetoed the bill. In New Jersey, the Governor can veto a bill with “conditions” – the idea is that should the legislature re-pass a bill addressing the conditions of the veto it will then be approved. Christie’s conditions called for raising the tax rate form 10% to 15%, more funding for problem gambling and a ten-year sunset clause on the legislation (meaning it would need to be re-passed by then). The legislature promptly reintroduced the bill with the corrections. In a show of fast movement, what was originally believed would receive final legislative approval in mid-March was voted on by both houses on February 26. The bill was quickly moved to the Governor’s desk who signed it into law that afternoon.
Even faster than New Jersey was Nevada’s action – which was a little bit of both a positive and negative movement. With the news that New Jersey was moving quickly, Nevada decided to moved even more quickly. On February 21, in under 12 hours, the Nevada legislature met, passed and moved on to the Governor a bill to remove the language requiring federal approval to institute interstate poker compacts, but it added in a 5-year “lockout” clause for those sites who continued to do business after the UIEGA was passed in 2006. Oh yeah, in that 12 hour period – Governor Sandoval also signed the bill into law.
The only step backward was the inaction coming from the state of Washington. In early February a lawmaker had introduced a bill to reduce playing online poker from a felony calling for up to 5 years of prison and a WSOP Main Event Buy-in-like fine to a civil infraction with a $50 fine plus court costs. However, the bill gained no traction and is dead until next year.
All-in-all, this is probably the best week for online poker in the United States since Black Monday 2011.