This really is a difficult issue to get in front of a busy governor’s agendaPennsylvania is reportedly no closer to the possibility of joining the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), despite Michigan officially joining the compact on May 23.
The decision over whether the Keystone State will join the four-state compact rests with Democratic Governor Tom Wolf. Last month, Press Secretary Elizabeth Rementer said the Wolf administration “continues to monitor how the expansion of online gaming in recent years has affected the gaming industry and Pennsylvania residents and continues to review the agreement.”
However, on Friday, Rementer declined to say whether Wolf — who is term-limited and will leave office in January 2023 — plans to make a decision before then or leave it to his successor. Rementer also declined to speculate on whether Michigan joining the compact changed the calculus for Pennsylvania possibly joining.
There was “no update from our last exchange,” Rementer told Pennsylvania Gaming Review on Friday.
Jeff Ifrah, of Ifrah Law PLLC, indicated that the delay in having Pennsylvania join the compact is surprising given that many in the industry thought the state was interested in doing so, but he said there could be some reasons behind the delay.
“This really is a difficult issue to get in front of a busy governor’s agenda,” Ifrah told PA Gaming Review in an exclusive interview. “This whole initiative is largely benefitting one specific brand of poker [WSOP] over others. It’s not a huge market and it’s not a huge tax revenue generator for the state to begin with.”
Ifrah: West Virginia Would Be “Easier” Addition to MSIGA
I think West Virginia [joining] would be a little easier, just because they seem overall to be more approachable and amenable to growing their market.Two other states with legal, regulated online poker — Connecticut and West Virginia — are frequently mentioned as additional states that could join the MSIGA, but there are roadblocks to adding either state to the compact.
Both states have small populations, meaning that their contributions to shared liquidity through the MSIGA would be limited. Connecticut is at a further disadvantage because its gaming laws don’t include a provision that would allow the state to join an interstate gaming compact like the MSIGA. Plus, neither of the two operators paired with tribal casinos in the state — DraftKings and FanDuel — have a poker platform.
That said, the West Virginia Lottery Commission (WVLC) did reveal last summer that West Virginia was “investigating the possibility of joining” an interstate compact for poker.
“I think West Virginia [joining] would be a little easier, just because they seem overall to be more approachable and amenable to growing their market,” Ifrah said. “Even though it’s a tiny population, it would be nice if there was another state that joined.”
West Virginia doesn’t currently have any poker operators deployed in the state. That would certainly change should the Mountain State join the interstate gaming compact.
“They were kind of 'stop-and-start’ because of the Wire Act and, as a result, they’re in the position now where they don’t even have operators,” Ifrah said. “They put a full hold on casino and poker when the Wire Act litigation was going on in New Hampshire originally. Obviously, that slowed things down for them at a time when other people were not doing that.”
Ifrah, whose firm was selected by the governor and attorney general of Delaware to help write the document that serves as the basis for MSIGA, said it took a long time to get New Jersey to join but not as long to get Michigan.
“We’ve got a nice population base. We really do need to get Pennsylvania on board. That wouldn’t be a bad accomplishment to have under our belts. Even though it seems like a long time — seven to eight years in the making — you’re talking overall about a small market that venerates not so much tax revenue and it’s getting the attention of governors to enter into a pretty incredible, unprecedented compact.”