In June, Pennsylvania State Senator Edwin Erickson introduced a bill to legalize online poker. There is still a possibility that Erickson’s bill can be passed this year although it looks very unlikely.
California and Pennsylvania are the two states that have been most committed to legalizing online poker this year. Two California lawmakers recently decided to pull bills that would have regulated online poker, stating that they didn’t have enough time left in this legislative year. Lawmakers are still facing opposition from several of the state’s gaming interests, which may make it difficult to pass a bill in 2015. Pennsylvania lawmakers face fewer challenges and are optimistic legislation will be passed although it’s still a long shot for 2014.
Erickson and other online gaming supporters also have hurdles to overcome. Sheldon Adelson, the Chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, has a strong presence in Pennsylvania. He has spent millions of dollars to create opposition to any effort to legalize online gambling and has stated on multiple occasions he would “spend what it takes” to continue his assault on the spread of gaming sites.
While Adelson has considerable influence in Pennsylvania, other state casinos support efforts to regulate online gambling. Some Pennsylvania citizens have traveled to New Jersey to participate in large online gaming tournaments. They feel regulation is necessary to maintain a competitive advantage.
Online gaming advocates are hoping that Erickson’s bill will be passed in 2014 with California missing it’s shot. The Golden State would have been the largest online poker market in the country, so regulation would have created a push to legalize online gambling in other states. Legalization in Pennsylvania and other states could similarly create pressure for California lawmakers to follow suit. We won’t have long to find out if Pennsylvania will suffer the same fate as California.