Pennsylania Passes on iGaming Legislation; Michigan Still in Play

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While Pennsylvania has decided not to regulate online gaming in 2016, Michigan just might pull it off

The calendar has now been flipped to December, and barring a Christmas miracle in Michigan, it’s starting to look like 2016 will end without a new state joining the legal online gambling ranks.

Despite momentum and legislative progress in several states, when 2017 begins, the number of states with legal online gambling industries will still be stuck at three – Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.

To add insult to injury, rumors of a lame duck RAWA (Restoration of America’s Wire Act) push have begun making the rounds.

Pennsylvania runs out of time

Barring a special session, the Pennsylvania Senate has decided to kick the can down the road when it comes to legalizing online gambling in the Keystone State.

The 2015/2016 session came to a close on Wednesday without passage of HB 2150, a bill that would fix the local tax share issue caused by a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling in September, legalize online gambling, and make a few other less significant gaming changes.

The local tax share fix will still need to be addressed in early 2017, but handshake agreements between casinos and local municipalities has made the matter less urgent than was first reported, and the matter could be pushed back as far as April.

The local tax share will have to be addressed at some point, but the appetite for online gambling is less clear and now that it has spilled over into 2017, fraught with uncertainty.

There are a number of questions that we really don’t know the answer to:

  • Will the incoming members of the legislature be fully up to speed on the issue and hold similar views?
  • Will the contentious VGT’s in bars and taverns rear its head in 2017?
  • Will the House of Representatives continue to try to tie the two issues (local tax share and online gambling) together?
  • Will the legislature come up with an alternative way to raise the $100 million earmarked for the budget from online gambling?

Further complicating matters, the biggest proponent of legal online gambling, Representative John Payne, will be leaving office at the end of the year, and while several other people could pick up his mantel (Representative George Dunbar and Representative Rosita Youngblood come to mind), Payne’s departure leaves a major void.
Bottom line: Pennsylvania has gone from sustained positive momentum in 2016 to uncertainty in 2017.

Hope still remains in Michigan

With Pennsylvania in stasis, the focus has now shifted to Michigan.

For several months we’ve been saying that if online gambling in Michigan is in play, it will happen post-election.

The Michigan legislature is still in session, and will be for the next few weeks.

The Poker Players Alliance and other online gambling supporters are calling on the community to contact their legislators:

But other sources say have indicated the cake isn’t done baking just yet, with the caveat that there is still time to get it passed this year:

But time is running out to get the bill passed in 2016.

Lame ducks, RAWA, and OLC opinions

Don’t look now, but with another lame duck session on the horizon, rumors of Congress sneakily passing an online gambling ban have returned.

Websites from Forbes, to Reason, to Watchdog.org (here, here, and here) have started ringing alarm bells and warning of the possibility, hearkening back to a 2014 attempt to get RAWA inserted into the massive CRomnibus spending bill – an attempt that eventually failed.

Further down the road, there is also some consternation within the online poker community that an online gambling prohibition could be enacted under Donald Trump. Namely, that Trump’s Attorney General (Trump nominated Jeff Sessions for the post) might revisit the 2011 Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion penned by US Assistant Attorney General Virginia Seitz.

The opinion reversed a nine year policy at the DOJ that the 1961 Wire Act applied to all forms of online gambling – Seitz’s opinion narrowed the scope of the Wire Act as it pertains to online gambling to sports betting, and opened the door for states to legalize online casino, online poker, and online lottery within their borders.

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