Online gambling has dominated the US news headlines since the federal ban on sports betting was overturned in May 2018. Over eighteen months on, 20 states have legalized the industry in some form.
But what about online casino gambling? Are states showing the same urgency to authorize online casinos too? Well, not exactly.
At present just three have launched online casino gambling: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Michigan is set to join having passed legislation as recently as December 2019. The deal includes the whole package (sports betting, online casino games, online poker, fantasy sports) but is awaiting launch.
Given the widespread presence of casinos in Atlantic City, it’s no great surprise that no other state has as many online gambling opportunities as NJ. Legal online casinos have been active in the Garden State since 2013 while it’s also possible to play at online poker sites, bet on horse racing and play fantasy sports, in addition to sports betting, of course.
With an expansion approved in 2017, the legal situation of online gambling in PA also allows for a full quota of gambling options. Online sports betting kicked off in May 2019, quickly followed two months later by the introduction of online casinos. The launch of Poker Stars in November 2019 completed the package for the Keystone State where it’s possible to gamble across the three main verticals.
A state you wouldn’t expect to find at the forefront of legal online casino gambling is, Delaware. Yet the First State lived up to its name in 2012 by becoming the first in the US to approve legislation. However, the competitive markets of NJ and PA will never play out in DE due to a lottery-run online gaming system that restricts competition. Hence why Delaware isn’t spoken about the same way New Jersey and Pennsylvania are.
So why are online casinos limited, primarily, to two states right now?
Essentially, there is a reluctance among state lawmakers to implement gambling expansions in one big hit, choosing instead to learn how the industry functions in other states first. West Virginia and Indiana are two prime examples with the former currently seeking the advice of Pennsylvania regulators to create a new framework inclusive of online casinos.
Meanwhile, the authorization of online casinos is not included in any Indiana bill. But with mobile sports betting growing rapidly since September 2019, attention could very quickly turn towards growing the industry across other gambling verticals.
A further point to consider is the general popularity of sports in the US. Being able to wager on your favorite team whilst watching a game is the most desirable mode of gambling, at least for the time being.
Those wagering on sports via mobile betting apps are turning to online casino games. But only to kill time between breaks in games. Spinning the roulette wheel or playing blackjack doesn’t yet have the same pulling power as betting on the NFL, for example.
There’s no doubt online casinos will become more prevalent and have a chance to grow. But full-scale mobile sports betting needs to have taken a foothold in a few more states first. As it stands, only players in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Indiana, and New Hampshire have the luxury of gambling freely on sports from a mobile device.
Once the number of states with full-scale sports betting begins to increase, we will begin to see more gambling expansions inclusive of online casinos.