Online poker and online gaming, in general, had their fair share of ups and downs in 2018, especially in the legislative front. In the United States, for instance, a number of states made headway with online poker laws that made it easier for poker players in the country to enjoy the activity. There were many other developments in the global front as well with many jurisdictions looking to capitalize on the online poker industry and improve their offerings to best suit both the host countries, the online gaming operators as well as the gamblers themselves.
As expected, the momentum that was established last year is still on and therefore 2019 is definitely going to involve many more developments and, hopefully, improvements. In fact, the new year is barely a week old and already there are a plethora of new changes that were either dropped in the first few days of the new year or that were officially announced in the last few days of 2018 and are just beginning to affect the industry. Either way, it will be very interesting to see how everything unfolds along the course of the year – there is a lot to look forward to.
Is There Still Hope for Michigan in 2019?
Last week, on December 28, 2019, outgoing Michigan governor Rick Snyder vetoed the proposed online poker and gaming House Bill 4926. Needless to say, there was a lot of optimism for the Michigan online gaming industry especially because the local legislature had already given the nod to the much-anticipated gaming sector expansion – there was massive support from both chambers and the bill’s proponents had even managed to bring the tribal and commercial casino operators to a consensus. The governor, in his rather surprising decision, cited concerns related to the implications of online gaming to the lottery as justification for his decision.
Governor Snyder’s veto effectively delays the gambling expansion plans in the state of Michigan for at least a year and therefore 2019 will be monumental for the process. Already, Rep. Brandt Iden, the main sponsor of the online gaming and poker bill has revealed that he intends to reintroduce the bill alongside a sports betting bill that has been in the works to the house when the 2019 legislative session kicks off. Hopefully, the Michigan legislature will favor the package yet again even though this might not be as easy as it was the last time since there are new legislators. This means that Mr. Iden will have to educate the new lawmakers. Also, hopefully, Gretchen Whitmer, the incoming Michigan governor, will be more responsive to the expansion of the local gambling sector.
Michigan’s entry into the United States’ online poker industry would have been a welcome development for the state and other online poker-friendly states such as Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania’s Online Poker and Gaming Plans Still on Track
In 2018, several online gambling and online poker operators in the Keystone State applied for licenses and many of them are expected to go live sometime this year. This will also be accompanied by the finalization of the state’s online gaming laws and regulations among other things. The state has always been highly regarded for its potential in terms of the humongous gambling market that it boasts of.
New York’s Online Poker Bid
Online poker has had a very long and troubled history in New York primarily because even though the state often seemed to be on the verge of legalizing and regulating online poker, it always ended up having those efforts thwarted. In fact, on multiple occasions, the state has managed to pass online poker legislation but the bill has never had any luck at the chambers of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee. Still, some New York legislators have long shown interest in bringing online poker to the state even if the votes or the political will is still not sufficient enough to make it happen just yet. Well, perhaps 2019 will be the year when the state finally gets to make some headway in as far as online poker is concerned. Most of the lawmakers in the state currently have their sights set on sports betting but having both of them will certainly be a most welcome development.
Sweden’s Online Poker Rooms Finally Go Live
Sweden kicked the new year on a very high note after it launched its highly anticipated regulated online gambling market – one that is not a monopoly, that is. The official launch of the industry occurred on January 1 and there are still lots of plans ahead with many hoping that the move will motivate other European countries to do the same.
The launch of the new regulated Swedish online poker industry is great news for the global poker scene as a whole. US-based operators, for instance, are certainly going to find the market very lucrative. Over 70 companies sent applications to the country’s gaming authority and over 30 of them have been approved with some others still undergoing the regulator’s review process. The fact that this move happened so early in the year creates a lot of room for more companies to venture into the country’s market and for other countries with monopolistic gaming industries, especially in the region, to borrow a leaf from Sweden.
Better Protections for Gamblers
From Steve Wynn’s woes to casino worker strikes in Las Vegas and other parts of the world, to the issue of loot boxes, as well as a number of lawsuits involving gaming operators and gamblers, 2018 was certainly marred with controversy. Fortunately, these marked the beginning of some legislative and regulatory processes that were focused in ensuring better consumer protection. This year, there will be significant regulatory and legislative decision made in various fields especially in areas concerned with assisting problem gamblers and ensuring proper definitions of gambling. Online poker operators will, of course, not be spared from the oncoming probe.