Midterm Elections Could Affect Future of US Online Poker

Midterm Elections Could Affect Future of US Online Poker

On Nov. 6, US voters will go to the polls to determine which political party will ultimately control both houses of Congress, while the governorship role in 36 states will also come up for a vote. Needless to say, these midterm elections have the potential to significantly impact the nation’s general political landscape, as each party could subsequently gain the upper hand in passing their own legislative agendas, or blocking those of their political opponents.

Following their outcome, various states could also see a positive push for online poker legislation within their borders, while other may experience an all together less favorable outlook. Three particular states are especially worthy of a closer look, namely Nevada, Michigan and Florida.

Nevada Disaster

Brian Sandoval has been the Governor of Nevada since 2011, with the Republican Party member having signed the state’s online poker bill (AB 114) into law a couple of years later. However, the governor position is limited to just two terms of four years, meaning Sandoval will not be able to run for re-election in November. Instead, Adam Laxalt, a fellow Republican and current Nevada Attorney General, is aiming to take his place, but unlike his predecessor he is a staunch online gambling opponent, as well as a close ally of Sheldon Adelson, his largest political donor.

Over the years, Laxalt has actively campaigned to put an end to online gambling across the country, and in 2016 he was one of a number of state attorney generals to have added their names to the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). In 2017, he also sent a letter to the Trump Administration requesting that the Department of Justice reverses its 2011 ruling that the Wire Act of 1961 only applies to sports betting.

All things considered, Laxalt’s potential appointment as Nevada Governor could spell doom for the state’s legal and regulated online poker market.

Michigan Uncertain

Michigan is considered a strong candidate for online gambling legislation. In 2016, State Senator Mike Kowall introduced the state’s first online gambling bill, while the following year Rep. Brandt Iden also sponsored an expansion bill (H 4926), which carried over into this year and was passed in June by the Michigan House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the Senate failed to take up the measure, while tribal and commercial operator differences have prevented any further movement on the issue going forward.

In the meantime, Sen. Kowall will be forced by term limits from seeking re-election in 2018, as will a total of 19 from 27 Republican members currently serving in the Senate. As gambling reporter Martin Derbyshire, explains:

“The future of the state’s online gambling legislation is unclear with the Senate guaranteed to have a lot of new faces no matter what happens.”

Florida Referendum

Florida Governor Rick Scott is currently competing against Democrat Bill Nelson in the race for a U.S. Senate position, leaving Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum in a contest to become the next governor. On the one side, Gillum has said that he would be happy to see residents in the upcoming referendum vote in favor of amending the state constitution to give them a final say in any future gambling expansion proposal. On the other hand, Ron DeSantis is no fan of a gambling expansion, and does not believes that gambling should even be included in the state’s constitution.

Up until now, the Florida legislature has been responsible for approving any gambling expansion legislation that may take place in the state, but a positive referendum in November will see that responsibility determined by a citizen-initiated ballot. In other words, it would be the voters who ultimately got to decide whether a Florida gambling expansion takes place or not, no matter who may be in office at the time.