The 6 States Most Likely to Launch Online Poker Next The 6 States Most Likely to Launch Online Poker Next

For the past decade, real money online poker in the US has been fully legal, regulated, and live in just three states — Nevada (launched in 2011), Delaware (established in 2013), and New Jersey (launched in 2013).

In the following ten years, progress has been agonizingly slow. In 2014, Delaware combined liquidity with Nevada, resulting in the first multi-state online poker network. New Jersey signed this pact, called the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), in 2017.

But players had to wait until 2019 for more states to open up. Pennsylvania went live in 2019, and Michigan followed suit in 2021. Only the latter of the two has signed MSIGA but has yet to allow any online poker operators to connect operations with those in other states.

So, where will online poker be offered next?

If the last ten years are anything to go by, it would be foolish to be optimistic about the further proliferation of safe, regulated online poker in the United States. Key developments — laws changed, regulations drafted, operators licensed, shared liquidity approved — have consistently come in behind even modest predictions.

With that said, there are still crucial developments to monitor. Two states have passed online poker legislation and could finally see its first operator launch. More states are seriously considering online casino and poker regulation in the coming year. Here, pokerfuse looks at the six states most likely to launch online poker soon.

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1. West Virginia

Online poker, alongside online casinos and sportsbooks, has been legal in West Virginia since 2019. Yet, despite having five online casinos in WV and almost a dozen sportsbooks, there are no online poker apps.

That’s likely because of the state’s small population — about 1.8 million. The state would become much more attractive for poker operators if it were to join the MSIGA — a multi-state gaming compact that includes Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, and New Jersey. One prominent gaming law attorney said he thought West Virginia could join the agreement before Pennsylvania does.

The West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC), which regulates gaming in the state, has also expressed interest in joining a multi-state compact like MSIGA.

If it did, the licensed online casinos with an online poker presence in other markets would likely look to tack on online poker. BetMGM Poker US, already operational in Michigan and New Jersey, is very likely to launch in WV; Caesars (under the WSOP US brand) will also be interested. FanDuel’s parent company, Flutter, should also look for an avenue to launch PokerStars.

2. Connecticut

Like West Virginia, Connecticut is a state where online poker is legal (since 2021), yet none of the operators deployed in the state offer it. But that’s where the similarities end.

Connecticut’s gaming regimen currently does not allow shared liquidity. So, if the state is interested in joining a multi-state compact like MSIGA, lawmakers must first amend the state’s gaming laws. State law appears to lump online poker in with online casino gaming — a typical arrangement in many states.

The state has issued master wagering licenses to the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe, which respectively own and operate Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun. The licenses allow each tribal casino to have “one skin each for sports wagering and online casino,” according to Kaitlyn Krasselt, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection (CDCP).

Foxwoods entered a partnership with DraftKings, while Mohegan Sun clinched an agreement with FanDuel. Since neither operator runs an online poker platform, there is no online poker in Connecticut.

Despite repeated requests for clarification from the regulator, it remains unclear how the CDCP defines “skin” and “operator.” In April, Krasselt said that “the law does not allow multiple operators to be associated with a license.”

That would seem to preclude the idea of PokerStars, or perhaps another Flutter brand with a poker platform, from handling online casino and poker at the Mohegan Sun and keeping FanDuel as the online sportsbook.

3. Kentucky

Lawmakers have tried to pass legislation allowing online poker and sports betting in Kentucky for three years.

Although online poker supporters failed in 2020, 2021, and 2022, they have promised to try again in 2023.

Passing any gaming legislation will be a complex lift in socially conservative Kentucky. In the last session, lawmakers couldn’t even agree on how to spend a $300 million settlement from PokerStars to settle an 11-year dispute with the state over online gambling in Kentucky between 2006 and 2011.

But Kentucky could also authorize online gaming in short order out of fear it could leave millions in tax revenue on the table for other states. At the start of 2023, Kentucky will be almost entirely surrounded by other states with some form of online gaming (with one exception: Missouri).

4. Indiana

Another conservative state in the mix for real money online poker is Indiana, which has had online sports betting since 2019. Legislation that would expand gaming beyond sports betting has been introduced since then, but each effort has failed.

The latest attempt included two bills, House Bill 1356 and House Bill 1337, which were introduced in January. Reps. Doug Gutwein (R-Francesville) and Ethan Manning (R-Logansport) presented the former, while Rep. Alan Morrison (R-Brazil) authored the latter.

Both bills were subsequently referred to the House Committee on Public Policy but did not advance past a first reading by the committee.

Sens. Jon Ford (R-Terre Haute), Chris Garten (R-Charlestown), and Ronald Grooms (R-Jeffersonville) introduced similar Indiana online poker bills in 2021. Senate Bill 417 was referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Legislative Procedure but went no further.

Supporters have vowed to try again in 2023.

5. Illinois

Like neighboring Indiana, Illinois has had online legal sports betting since 2019. An effort to expand online gaming to include casino gaming and poker fell short in 2021.

House Bill 3142, aka the Internet Gaming Act, would have allowed the state’s land-based casinos and racetracks to have up to three skins for online casino gaming. The bill also called for levying a 12% tax rate.

Reps. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) and Jonathan Carroll (D-Northbrook) introduced HB 3142 in February 2021. After its first reading in the state House of Representatives, the bill was referred to the House Rules Committee. It was assigned to the House Executive Committee and re-referred to the Rules Committee in March 2021 but made no further progress.

HB 3142 would have also allowed the state to join a multi-state compact like MSIGA for online poker in Illinois. The Illinois Gaming Board (IGB) “may enter into agreements with other jurisdictions to facilitate, administer, and regulate multi-jurisdictional approved Internet games, including, but not limited to, poker.”

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6. Iowa

Sports betting also came to Iowa in 2019. Unfortunately, there has been no legislative action since then to expand gaming to either online casino gaming or poker.

But both verticals are clearly on the minds of the state’s operators and its regulator, the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission (IRGC).

According to an October 6 report by Iowa’s Legislative Services Agency (LSA), the IRGC at its meeting on September 29 approved a request from the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque to amend and restate its online market access agreement with FanDuel.

“One item included in the amendment was a provision that allows [FanDuel] to have priority in operating an online casino or online poker game in the event such future legislation was to pass that allows online gambling,” the LSA report said.

FanDuel operates retail and online sportsbooks at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque. It also runs a retail sportsbook at the Diamond Jo Worth Casino in Northwood.