If you’re frustrated with the pace of online gaming expansion in the United States, my speculative look at the U.S. online gaming situation in 2020 might be just what the doctor ordered.
I don’t expect movement at the federal level, or for online gambling to uncontrollably spread across the U.S.
But I’m extremely bullish on online gaming expansion over the next five years, and I think the U.S. online gaming industry will be in a good place by 2020.
Where online gambling currently stands
The proverbial flood gates were opened following the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel 2011 opinion limiting the scope of the 1961 Wire Act to sports betting.
In the run-up to and aftermath of the OLC’s opinion, state after state started passing online lottery, online poker, and online gaming bills, resulting in the enactment of online gaming legislation in seven different states:
- Maryland – legalized fantasy sports in 2010
- Illinois – online lottery sales began in 2011
- Minnesota – online lottery sales began in 2011
- Georgia – online lottery sales began in 2012
- Nevada – online poker launched in 2013
- Delaware – online poker and online casino games launched in 2013
- New Jersey – online poker and online casino games launched in 2013
After this initial period of plenty, the legal iGaming spigot was all but closed in 2014 and 2015.
There may have been plenty of talk (Pennsylvania and California continue to look into online gambling and online poker respectively, while Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, and several other states continue to explore iLottery), but only two states expanded into online gambling in 2014 and 2015:
- Michigan – online lottery sales began in 2015
- Kansas – legalized fantasy sports in 2015
Where online gambling will be in 2020
I’m of the opinion that RAWA will not be enacted and online gambling expansion will continue at the state level, where it appears to be a matter of when not if in a number of states.
With that in mind, here’s where I expect legal online gaming in the U.S. to be in 2020.
Online poker and online casino in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
Look for Pennsylvania to pass an online gambling bill that legalizes online casino and poker games in the next year.
New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have (or will have) brick and mortar casinos that will need bolstering, and iGaming is an easy, albeit small scale fix. This Northeast expansion could trickle further down the eastern seaboard to West Virginia and Maryland.
With Pennsylvania falling, surrounding states will be forced to follow suit in the ensuing years, as the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have hyper-competitive gaming industries and a history of “keeping up with the Joneses.”
Online poker and online casino in the heartland
In the center of the country, look for the early adopter iLottery states to lead the charge.
It’s certainly not a stretch to say Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan will have their online poker and casino sites up and running or ready to go by 2020.
Another potential candidate is Ohio, where the state’s casinos might push for iGaming to avoid a competitive disadvantage with its neighbors – Ohio is surrounded by three strong iGaming candidates: Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan.
Online poker and online casino out west
Out west, California will pass an online poker bill before 2020.
The racing issue seems solvable, while the protestations regarding PokerStars will continue to be tamped down with time.
Should California pass an online poker bill, look for talks to heat up in Oregon and Washington State as well, but whether those two states can pass an online gaming bill by 2020 is highly dependent on when California passes iPoker legislation.
Online poker and online casino elsewhere
Other potential candidates for iPoker and/or iCasino expansion are Indiana and Florida, but both states would need to see their current anti-online gambling governors (Mike Pence and Rick Scott) ousted – or the political climate radically changed – for iGaming expansion to become a reality.
Interstate online poker agreements will be signed, but at a far slower pace than the poker community desires.
The reason I feel interstate agreements won’t proliferate as fast as people would like is two-fold:
- Online casino revenue will continue to dwarf online poker revenue, making online poker a forgotten product … much like live poker rooms in resort casinos.
- States with multiple stakeholders will have a hard time passing interstate agreements when only some of these stakeholders will benefit from these compacts.
Still, I expect a compact between several of the northeastern states (creating a strong network of online poker sites) and perhaps one or two other states such as Illinois or Minnesota to be created.
Unfortunately, the biggest market, California, will remain independent.
By 2020, online lottery will be available across the country.
Early adopter states will provide the on the ground data other states can take to their legislatures to prove iLottery is a net win for their coffers.
And as we’ve seen up to this point, iLottery expansion seems far quicker and easier to implement, requiring less time to get the industry from point A to point B, often without legislation being passed.
Daily fantasy sports
Like online lottery, the legalization of daily fantasy sports at the state level will be rampant by the time 2020 rolls around. The problem the DFS industry will face is that these regulations will make the price of doing business too prohibitive for most operators.
Because of this, DFS websites will likely become extensions of other existing gaming entities. I’m of the opinion that DFS, currently dominated by the likes of DraftKings and FanDuel, will become a niche industry run by mega casino corporations or perhaps the state lotteries by the time the calendar reads 2020.
In 2020, sports betting legalization (including online) will be picking up real momentum.
The NFL and NCAA will continue to be the holdouts, while MLB and the NHL will join the NBA and push for Congress to change PASPA and allow for the legalization of sports-betting at the state level.