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Navigating the Challenges of Legalizing Online Casino Gaming in the United States

Passing legislation for online gambling, or "igaming," proves to be a daunting task year after year. Despite the optimism at the start of each legislative season, the reality is that legalizing online casino gaming faces numerous hurdles. Nearly six years after the US Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, only seven US jurisdictions offer legal online casino gaming, compared to 31 offering online sports betting and 40 allowing legal wagering overall.

In the current 2024 legislative season, hopes for legalizing online gambling are fading fast. While bills remain active in states like Georgia, Minnesota, and Mississippi, none are close to fruition. The challenges in legalizing online casino gambling are manifold, ranging from concerns about addiction to fears that it will detract from traditional brick-and-mortar venues. Additionally, some states are not yet convinced of the urgent need for the revenue stream.

However, there may be a deeper reason why online casino legalization faces resistance, one that extends beyond the deliberations in state legislatures. According to Howard Glaser, global head of government affairs and legislative counsel at Light & Wonder, the issue is more about market dynamics than legislative hurdles. Many smaller land-based casinos feel they cannot compete with industry giants like MGM and Caesars, who dominate both digital sports betting and casino gaming.

Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Resorts, echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the need for individual operators to focus on their own market share rather than fixating solely on the total addressable market (TAM) and tax revenue. He argues that the current focus on TAM overlooks the challenges faced by smaller players in the industry.

Glaser suggests that smaller players should unite to create a formidable force capable of competing with industry giants. Currently, companies like DraftKings, FanDuel, and Fanatics Betting & Gaming hold significant sway in the online gaming space. Glaser believes that unity among land-based casinos, whether tribal or commercial, will be key to passing online casino legislation.

However, there are other obstacles to consider. Labor unions could play a significant role in shaping the landscape of online casino gaming in any state. Successful online casino operations require far fewer employees than traditional casinos, which could lead to job losses and union resistance.

Despite these challenges, the topic of online gambling remains on the agenda in state legislatures across the country. Lawmakers like Brandt Iden and Shawn Fluharty are actively engaged in the conversation, though they are uncertain about the prospects for online casino legalization in 2024. In Maryland, efforts are underway to push forward with online gambling legislation, with a recent amendment to allow for 25 online gambling licenses.

Similarly, Maine is actively discussing legal online casino gaming, with the state's tribes being granted exclusivity in a comprehensive gambling bill. However, progress in these states remains uncertain, highlighting the complexities involved in legalizing online gambling.

Nevertheless, the potential tax revenue from online casino gaming remains substantial, far surpassing that of sports betting in many states. In an election year, the political landscape may influence the progress of online gambling legislation, but ultimately, the desires of constituents will determine the outcome.

In conclusion, while the path to legalizing online casino gaming may be fraught with challenges, it remains a topic of significant interest and debate across the United States. Unity among industry players, effective lobbying efforts, and public education initiatives may pave the way for progress in the future.



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