State of Poker: States That Played for Keeps in 2015

December 25th, 2015 | by Kaycee James

state of poker Sheldon Adelson US legislation RAWA online gambling

The state of poker evolved considerably in 2015 as many states considered legislation and are expected to continue in the New Year, but casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson is also likely to resume his quest to send iGambling into prohibition on the federal level. (Image:

Poker in America is complicated and complex, and considering it’s both a state and federal topic, that’s no big surprise.

“Politician” is defined as “someone who is active in government,” and in 2015 US lawmakers were quite lively in debating the merits of permitting their constituents to gain access to the game of poker.

It was a busy legislative year for the game, debates and hearings aplenty and elected leaders politicking the issue.

Some states made advances towards legalizing either land-based or online poker, while others decided to further examine poker.

Since there was an abundance of headlines and developments over the last 12 months, here’s a summary of where several of the key jurisdictions are at, because when it comes to poker, united we do not stand.

Up & Running

Nevada/Delaware: Both states passed iGambling bills prior to 2015, but it was this year that the two decided to share player liquidity. Last March, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Delaware Gov. Jack Markel signed the Multi-State Poker Network proposition into law. The partnership initially increased iPoker participation and revenues for the states, but additional allies are needed for meaningful growth.

Massachusetts: The state’s Expanded Gaming Act, passed in 2011, opened up the possibility for three casino resorts and one slot parlor. In 2015, following four years of complaints and lawsuits, the Plainridge Park Casino slot parlor debuted, the first commercial gambling venue in the New England state. MGM Springfield and Wynn Everett are also expected to break ground in the coming months.

New Jersey: After months of delay, PokerStars and Full Tilt finally received its iGaming license on the last day of September to offer its services to residents in the Garden State. The decision brings the world’s largest poker network back to the US for the first time since Black Friday, April 15, 2011.

Almost There

New York: Many states tossed around the idea of legalizing online poker in 2015, but the Empire State seems most likely to actually bring legislation to a vote in the New Year. State Senator John Bonacic (R-District 42) and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow (D-District 89) are leading the bipartisan effort, but satisfying the interests of tribal casinos and the racetracks might be a hurdle too tall for lawmakers to clear.

Pennsylvania: The Keystone State is another formidable candidate for 2016 iPoker passage, Harrisburg welcoming five propositions during the last 12 months. It seems many state senators and assemblypersons favor the concept, but the Republican-controlled legislature is struggling to agree with Democratic Governor Tom Wolf on just about anything.

Still Struggling

Texas: US Rep. Joe Barton (R-District 6) doesn’t understand why he has to travel to Oklahoma to play the game of poker. The 15-term congressman has introduced legislation that would regulate the iPoker market on the federal level and has urged his lawmakers in his home state to legalize, but to no avail on both counts.

California: Perhaps no state is more important to online poker’s overall potential than California. The most populace state in America received online poker legislation from Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-District 43) and Adam Gray (D-District 21) in 2015, but the complex gambling environment featuring powerful Native American tribes and horse race tracks has halted progress.

RAWA: The Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s personal attempt to persuade members of Congress to outlaw online gambling, largely stalled in 2015. Though a prominent hearing was held in March in the House of Representatives, the legislation has failed to gain momentum, much to the dismay of the GOP mega financier.


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