US Online Poker Expansion in 2019 Rides on November Elections

Legislation, US
US Poker

A number of states that have flirted with regulating online poker in the past may do so again in 2019, pending the outcome of next month’s elections.

New York, Michigan, and California have all been mentioned as states that may be next in line to join Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in passing online poker legislation. Whether or not those states are once again in the spotlight as potential states to join the online poker party won’t be known until the ballots have been counted in November.

Unfortunately, some key lawmakers within those states who have been pushing for the passage of i-poker legislation won’t be doing so in 2019. Term limits and retirement are the reasons behind at least a couple of departures. Their absence will require the baton to be picked up by other legislators.

New York

The retirement of Sen. John Bonacic will definitely create a void among online poker advocates in the Empire State. Bonacic spent two decades as a New York senator, with much of that time devoted to pushing for gambling expansion.

The 75-year-old outgoing senator backed the legalization of land-based casinos, and more recently, was behind bills aimed at regulating online poker and sports betting. The Senate passed i-poker legislation in both 2016 and 2017, but the matter became stalled in the Assembly.

Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow was championing online poker in his role as chairman of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee. He failed to muster enough support among his fellow assembly members before the legislative session came to a close this year.

Pretlow is running for re-election in November and is unopposed. He will undoubtedly make a push for online poker regulation in 2019. But who will take over Bonacic’s role in the Senate?


Behind the push for online gambling legislation in Michigan was Sen. Mike Kowall. His efforts began in 2016 and found favor among members of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee. Unfortunately, further progress stalled that year but saw action heat up in the House in 2017.

It was Rep. Brandt Iden who threw his support behind an an online gambling bill last year that remained active into the 2018 legislative session and managed to find approval in the House in June. The measure would allow New York casinos to offer online poker, gambling, and sports betting.

The bill still requires Senate approval, as well as a thumbs up from the state’s commercial casinos and Indian tribes. All 38 Senate seats will be determined by voters next month and Kowall won’t be on the ticket due to his time in office reaching its limit.

Iden does hope to retain his House seat but faces a challenge and his re-election doesn’t look entirely promising considering the two previous elections that saw his margin of victory no bigger than an eyelash. Should Iden be forced to alter the direction of his political career, the prospect of online poker regulation in New York may take a step backward.


CaliforniaThe brightest news out of California is that the two biggest online poker proponents will likely remain in their legislative seats after voters have their say a few weeks from now. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer has been pushing for i-poker regulation for years and can continue the push in 2019 since he has no opponent in November.

There is talk that sports betting may be paired with online poker in a new proposal next year. Assemblyman Adam Gray, who has also been an online poker advocate in years past, is behind teaming the two gambling offerings. Gray is a heavy favorite to continue his service in the California Assembly following next month’s election.

Still plaguing online poker regulation in the Golden State is how to slice the pie among the state’s cardrooms, Indian tribes, and horse racing industry. But with sports betting now a part of the mix due to the reversal of PASPA by the US Supreme Court in May, perhaps the stakeholders involved will see things a bit differently.

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