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Since the recent overturning of circa-1960s wiretap legislation that had been used to outlaw online gambling for the past 16 years, US anti-gambling policy is undergoing a period of new flexibility. This is a period in which a federal legalization movement is very unlikely, however, as state-by-state legalization gains momentum it may indeed be enough to satisfy most American players.

The following states are considering or have passed initiatives to allow gambling in some way (mostly in a state-run fashion or with limited games/vendors):

  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Illinois
  • Delaware
  • Maryland
  • Pennsylvania
  • Washington DC/District of Columbia
  • Nevada
  • California (poker only)
  • Virginia
  • Michigan

With about one-fifth of the country’s states at least interested in legalizing online gambling — including Washington DC, the very seat of government, taking one of the strongest leads with its ‘iGaming’ venture — we may get a sense that America could flip on this issue. The Great Recession certainly seems to be a significant factor in the decision-making process of states in the list above. But most analysts are pretty sure that gambling will never become legal across the country from the federal level, although that would be easiest for online casinos of course.

Enter a New Era

As things stand, the status quo that started in 2006 when Congress spelled out a ban on card-game gambling online is coming to an end. In 2006, most Web-based casinos deserted the US market, except for two. From then on, until April 15 of 2011, Full Tilt and PokerStars became the de facto online poker games for US players (remember: it’s not illegal for Americans to play, although moving money to and from the online casino is tricky without employing US banks).

On Black Friday (that’s what April 15th 2011 has been dubbed), federal litigators in Manhattan filed a suit and brought criminal charges that shut down both Full Tilt and PokerStars. Its big-name co-owners spent too much time playing televised tournaments in the US (wearing their branded hats), and some defrauded their site’s players of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Those two cases began a real limbo zone in the US. Under the circumstances, in that post-bust atmosphere — an uneasey vacuum — there seemed little hope for US gamblers.

But There’s Hope After All

All of the above brings us to the hopeful present. American gamblers can rejoice to some extent. The problems with the two main poker sites has been resolved, with PokerStars paying over a half-billion USD to compensate the players who Full Tilt scammed, and to take over its rival’s brand name and operations.

The two big sites catering to American players are now planning a come-back. States have gained the freedom to decide individually about online gambling. Other casinos like 888 and Bwin are re-approaching the US marketplace. Land-casino and resort favorites like Caesars Palace and MGM are already signing deals with the incoming online-poker specialists: we will see many of these collaborations. Zynga, makers of a Facebook Poker game, are reportedly interested in a piece of the pie, too. For these reasons, it is fair to say that online casino gaming is on the rise in the USA.

Cross your fingers that this momentum continues without any more hitches!


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