Before 2018, sports fans could only legally wager inside the state of Nevada. Since PASPA was struck down in May of 2018, states have been able to vote on whether they will allow sports betting or online casino gaming within state lines. According to the Washington Post, states like New Jersey, Rhode Island, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania legalized the activity that year or voted to allow sports wagering or online casino gambling.
Since 2018, 36 US states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting in some form. Despite the many states regulating online sports wagering, just six US states have legalized online casino gaming. Yet before any of this was possible, the most common way to gamble online was through online poker rooms like WSOP.com and Pokerstars. Players were able to log in to one of these apps, and quickly jump into a game with friends across the country or world. Unfortunately, for many poker fans, this dream is just that, a dream. Gone are the days when online poker rooms had millions of players competing with one another from across the globe. Now, if you’re wanting to play online poker legally, you must be within one of the few states that have legalized the activity, New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Delaware. Connecticut and West Virginia have also legalized online poker rooms, but no operators have launched in either state as of January 2023.
The problem for both states is their populations and potential player base. Since online poker is regulated at the state level, each player base is currently segmented by state lines. Connecticut ranks 29th in the US for total population, with West Virginia sitting 39th.
Some experts believe West Virginia operators are waiting for interstate poker to go live before launching poker rooms in the Mountain State. This will likely help offset operation costs in smaller states like West Virginia and Connecticut.
Forty-two US states have land-based casinos. Thirty-six US states allow legal sports betting. Despite these large numbers, online casino gaming and poker rooms haven’t taken off as much.
Why is this, and why could 2023 be one of the most exciting years for online poker players?
Wire Act Fiasco Almost Over
For a long time, state legislators and lottery/casino/sports operators were concerned about the implications of the Wire Act and how it could affect their operations even in states with legal online gaming. Signed back in 1961, the Wire Act was created to target mob groups across the US, as it was believed that illegal gambling rackets were one of the most lucrative enterprises of mobs. For years, the Wire Act went unchanged.
When the internet entered the scene in the 90s, tech companies and casinos saw a way to offer online gambling online. During the past 23 years, both government institutions like the DOJ, as well as a multi-billionaire casino owner, Sheldon Adelson, have tried to change the implications of the Wire Act, attempting to stop or at least slow down the progress of online casino gambling, sports wagering, and poker.
Since Adelson’s passing in 2021, his own company has actually begun to pursue different online gambling ventures.
And even more recently, the New Hampshire Lottery Corporation and NeoPollard, and the IGT both won separate cases against the DOJ, leading many experts to believe that interstate poker is around the corner. For years, state officials were worried about the implications of the Wire Act, and were hesitant to sign interstate gambling compacts. Now with the Wire Act out of many legislators’ and operators’ worries, we could see online poker be legalized in many US states, and finally experience interstate poker here in Michigan.
Mac Daniel is a Michigan native and freelance writer for PlayOnlineCasino and PlayOnlineSportsBetting. He has experience writing about a wide variety of topics, including healthcare, tourism, non-profit organizations, and most recently casino and sportsbetting news. To check out more of his work, visit: playonlinemichigan.com