This year may be the year that America warms to the idea of legalizing online gambling. A few weeks ago, the first traditional, bricks and mortar casino opened in New York State. This marks a shift from the current Native American monopoly on casinos in the state and could be the catalyst for more states to legalize gambling, and give online gaming the traction it needs to be approved this year. Whilst this is big news for many American gamers, it's something we Brits need to keep an eye on too. A US gambling market expansion could affect the UK sector in many ways, not least by creating more competition in the market for online casino operators and software developers.
A History Of Gambling In New York
In America, the gambling industry is regulated at a state level, which means each state has it's own laws on the legality of gambling and who can hold a casino license. If we consider the different histories of each state, it's unsurprisingly that gambling laws can vary from tolerant to highly regulated from state to state. These laws cover all kinds of gambling, including horse racing, charitable gambling, commercial casinos and the lottery.
In New York state, the laws have always limited gambling to casinos on Indian reservations. As reservations have tribal sovereignty, the government has a limited ability to enforce law in these areas, especially when it comes to gambling. This is why many of the commercial casinos found in the US are ran by Native American tribes.
However, in 2013, voters approved an amendment to the New York constitution which allowed Las Vegas-esque casinos to be built. This broke the monopoly the Native American tribes held, and showed that voters leaned towards more relaxed gambling laws.
After the vote, a new board approved plans for three casinos in the state, with a fourth being added in 2015. Tioga Downs was the first casino to open in the state of New York a few weeks ago. The three remaining planned casinos are all anticipated to open in February and March 2017.
Why Did The Electorate Vote For The Expansion?
One of the major advantages of the expansion plan is the prediction that casinos will create additional tax revenue for the state of New York. The expansion will also create jobs, boosting employment rates, and bring more tourists to the state. Neighbouring state New Jersey recently expanded their gambling sector too, and supporters have projected the same rises too.
In the US, online gambling is still strictly regulated. In New York, there are no specific laws regarding online gaming, although the state is known for being hostile towards the sector. For instance, the state does not have any legal gambling websites, and will not provide licences for casino operators.
However, online gambling supporters are hopeful that if the expansion of the traditional casino sector proves to be success, then legislators may reconsider their attitudes towards online gaming. In 2010, the state of New Jersey passed a bill legalising certain forms of online gambling.
The bill allowed poker games, casinos games and slots to be played online, however excluded sports betting. If the land-based casino expansion plan goes well in both New York and New Jersey, it is hoped that New York may follow it's neighbour's lead. Moreover, in 2016, numerous bills were put forward concerning fantasy sports and online gambling.
Fantasy sports bets were eventually legalized, yet online gaming was left out of the new legislation. With the new plan of casino expansion coming back into the forefront of the conversation, online gaming fans are optimistic that 2017 could be the year for them.
We cannot say what will happen if certain US states legalise online gambling, nor can we say if they ever will, however it's a movement worth keeping an eye on even if you live in the UK or anywhere else. This is because an online gaming expansion in the US could affect the UK market significantly.
One of the main reasons UK players may feel some effect is because such an expansion would create more competition in the sector. For instance, if a casino has a US customer base to attract alongside it's European and other world-wide players, then they may be incentivised to offer bigger bonuses to compete with other casinos. Similarly, it would push casinos to offer a better quality of service and products.
Another way the expansion could affect the UK market is that casinos will be making more money, should a US customer base be formed. More revenue for online casino operators and games developers means more money to invest in research, development of software and development of games. Paired with the increase in competition, this could cause designers to create more innovative ideas than ever before, and in a much shorter timescale.