Both Washington state and Mississippi surprised many by introducing legislation to legalize online poker. But unfortunately, efforts to regulate iPoker in both states have already died out in early 2015. However, this doesn’t mean that nothing positive arose from these movements. That said, let’s discuss why the online poker push ended in both states as well as what to look forward to in the future.
Not enough support in Mississippi
State Rep. Bobby Moak brought forth a bill to regulate iGaming in the Magnolia State. The legislation took a harsh stance towards offshore operators, promising to block each unregulated site and impose up to 10 years in prison and $100,000 in fines for individuals caught offering illegal iGaming. Even players caught on these sites would have faced up to 90 days in jail and $10,000 in fines.
But the black market will continue operating in Mississippi because Moaks couldn’t generate the necessary support for his bill to emerge from the Mississippi Gaming Commission. The commission’s chairman, Allen Godfrey, appointed a group of experts to study online gaming by looking at other states (i.e. Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada). Based on the study, it’s likely that the commission figured that online gaming isn’t profitable enough in these states to move forward with a plan right now.
Politics still playing a part in Washington
The Evergreen State is well known for being the only place in the US where simply playing online poker is a felony. And Washington’s relationship with tribal gaming interests has a lot to do with this harsh stance. But state rep. Sherry Appleton had hoped to reverse Washington’s view on the matter with bill HB 1114.
Authored by poker advocate Curtis Woodard, this legislation would’ve legalized online poker in Washington and removed the class C felony law for playing iPoker. Unfortunately, Appleton has decided to let the matter go because, as she explains, “The bill did not get the support that I had originally hoped for.”
Still some gains made
Just the fact that a bill was even discussed in Washington is a big victory for the online poker cause. Woodward has been instrumental in pushing the agenda and making those in his state realize how unjust it is that iPoker is criminalized. And while it could still be some time before online poker is taken seriously in Washington, this is a start.
As for Mississippi, the commissioned study shows that they are also getting more serious about iGaming. But the main roadblock right now appears to be the lack of overall success seen from US online gaming. Assuming Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada can start showing some positive growth, then other states might take their iGaming discussions further.