PA and CT Testing Online Poker Waters With Free-Play Sites

With both Delaware and Nevada in the United States ready to virtually shuffle up and deal, several other states have been pushing to cash in on the virginal legalized poker Internet phenomenon in the US. The United States Department of Justice late last year changed their opinion on online poker, and now allows each individual state to decide their own online poker fate. The Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut and Pocono Downs Casino in Pennsylvania will be offering free play online poker as a way of testing the pay for play waters in advance of possible Internet poker legislation in those two states, and at the federal level in the US.

When the Pocono Downs Casino opens its virtual doors on free to play poker, it will be the first time that has occurred in Pennsylvania after the new DOJ ruling was handed down in 2011. Both Mohegan Sun and Pocono Downs casinos will employ a Bally Technologies iGaming system to handle their online poker websites. It appears that Nevada is ahead of Delaware as far as offering the actual first online pay for play experience in the United States, and that will happen in early 2013. Pennsylvania and Connecticut are anxious to offer a free play online poker experience, for a couple of reasons. It will help those states begin to develop a player pool of prospective pay for play poker players, and will also position them ahead of other states which have not yet begun to jump onto the online poker bandwagon in the US. As Mario Kontomerkos, Chief Financial Officer of the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority stated, this is a move to be properly positioned if federal legislation occurs allowing for online poker, or if online poker is legalized on the state level.

He mentioned that once they go through the process of setting up the websites, figuring out the software, insuring a safe and fair online poker process is in place, they can “flip the switch, so to speak,” as soon as legislation allows for online poker for money. Last December’s announcement only a couple of days before Christmas by the DOJ was a holiday gift to all online poker players in the US, as well as those companies hoping to cash in on what appears to be a multibillion dollar market. The deal with Mohegan Sun and Bally Technologies will be the first on the East Coast that uses iGaming technology.

Nevada wasted no time in issuing interactive Internet gaming licenses, with the first of those groundbreaking licenses going to Bally and Internet Game Technology back in June of this year. Delaware then announced they would be allowing casino websites to offer slots, poker, blackjack and roulette starting in 2013. The flip-flop by the Department of Justice in the US came about after legislators in Illinois and New York asked about the possibility of selling lottery tickets online. The DOJ responded that the Federal Wire Act only prohibits sports betting in interstate and intrastate online wagering.

The move does allow for passage at the federal level for some type of blanket interactive online gaming regulations and laws, but at this point partisan posturing and the 2012 presidential election have both kept that federal legislation on the back burner. However, that has not stopped states like Delaware and Nevada from rapidly moving to the front of the online gambling line as both industry leaders, and hopeful recipients of a financial windfall. All in all, 16 US states plus the District of Columbia and the American Virgin Islands currently have some type of online poker online gambling legislation awaiting approval. With that having been said, the Professor of Economics and Director of the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming at the University of Nevada at Reno, William R. Eadington, recently announced that he believes online gambling will expand quickly in the United States once the first virtual poker site opens its doors.