The push to legalize iGaming, or online casinos, is stalling in several states. A legislative group will organize a committee to draft “model legislation” lawmakers can use to introduce and hopefully grow the number of states that allow iGaming. That would bolster an industry where U.S. mobile sports betting has been a widespread success.
The announcement regarding online casinos came Thursday during the second day of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) winter meeting in Fort Lauderdale. West Virginia state Del. Shawn Fluharty, the group’s president, said the goal is to have a draft ready to present at the council’s summer meeting in Pittsburgh.
“What we want to do at NCLGS is help policymakers and regulators, who come to our conferences, take something back with them, and what we want to take back as good policy,” Fluharty said.
To accomplish that, Fluharty said the group will include policymakers, academic leaders and other stakeholders to get the thoughts and insights from those interested in iGaming. That group could begin to hold meetings as early as March.
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Online Casinos Mean More Money, But More Concerns
In the United States, iGaming has been legal twice as long as sports betting has been nationwide. However, while legal online sports betting has seen rapid growth since the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to overturn PASPA – Vermont will join 37 other states and the District of Columbia in having mobile or retail options, or both, when sports betting launches there later next week – online casino is only allowed in a fraction of the states.
Delaware and New Jersey were the first states to legalize iGaming in 2013. Since then, Fluharty’s West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Michigan have also opened the doors for online slots and table games. Rhode Island online gaming is set to join that group this spring after lawmakers there passed a law last year. Nevada allows iGaming to an extent, having legalized online poker more than a decade ago.
Reports from those states show that iGaming, which draws customers who can use casino deposit bonuses, is far more lucrative than sports betting in terms of tax revenue. New Jersey, for example, raised nearly $250 million in taxes from online casinos in 2022. That’s compared to almost $98 million from sports betting that year.
However, iGaming has not expanded as various groups, including casino operators and labor unions representing gaming workers, have raised concerns about the online apps cannibalizing the brick-and-mortar business and potentially leading to a loss of jobs.
Supporters of iGaming counter that by pointing to studies that show in-person casinos in iGaming states have not been hurt by online apps. In addition, online casino operators also offer live dealer games hosted at studios, leading to industry job growth.
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2024 iGaming Prospects Slim
Most state legislatures have either already started their 2024 session or will do so later this month, and very few states are expected to seriously consider iGaming bills this year. The leading candidate to join the group is Maryland, where state Sen. Ron Watson has said he will file a bill. New York lawmakers also plan to pitch online casinos as a method of generating new revenues to help address projected budget shortfalls. New York sports betting handle has exceeded $2 billion each of the past three months, including December. Maine lawmakers have also held hearings on iGaming legislation.
Lawmakers in states like Indiana and New Hampshire have already said they will not address iGaming this year.
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Steve is an accomplished, award-winning communicator with over 20 years of experience in journalism, public relations/public affairs, marketing, and business development. He currently covers a diverse set of beats for several publications focusing on legislation, litigation, government regulation, and oversight. This includes commercial and tribal gaming, commercial fishing, and state and local government reporting.