Midterm elections in the States of America usually aren’t highly important. In most cases, the highest-ranking office that is up for election is the House of Representatives, unless a Senator is facing his constituents at the conclusion of his or her six-year term. In some states, however, there is a Governor’s race that is up for election. In 2018, however, there are a couple of states that are holding elections and/or referendums that could have a serious impact on online poker, sports betting and gaming overall.
Nevada – Could Online Poker Disappear?
Since 2013, the Nevada online poker industry has been active. Although it has had different levels of success – the first online poker operation in the state, Ultimate Poker, would collapse within a year of opening, while WSOP.com has thrived – it has been a relatively stable outlet that has generated roughly a million per month (official statistics aren’t released because there aren’t enough sites in operation). But that could change with the November elections.
Since current Governor Brian Sandoval is being term-limited out of office, there are two contenders to take over the seat. The state, which is viewed as a “purple” state because of its even mixture of Democrat and Republican voters, will choose between Democrat Steve Sisolak and Republican Adam Laxalt (there are candidates for two smaller parties – and a third pick for “none of these candidates” – but we’ll concentrate on who the potential threats are to online poker). While Sisolak has not made any statements regarding online gaming in the Silver State, his opponent has.
Laxalt, who is the current Attorney General for the state, has spoken out vehemently about his opposition to online gaming and poker. In December 2016, Laxalt was one of the state Attorneys General who signed a letter seeking the reimplementation of the Wire Act on the individual states. If you’ll recall, it was the 2011 ruling from the U. S. Department of Justice that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting that opened the doors for the individual states to pursue online gaming and poker.
Despite the desires of many casino operations in the state, including MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and others, Laxalt’s opposition has continued into his campaign for Governor. One of his main beneficiaries is allegedly Las Vegas Sands Corporation owner/operator Sheldon Adelson, who has spent millions in the pursuit of squashing online gaming and poker on the state and federal level. If Laxalt is to take the Governor’s chair in Nevada – an average of four polls has Laxalt with an extremely slim edge over Sisolak – would he close the doors on online poker in the state of Nevada?
Florida – The Next Great Casino Gaming State?
One of the biggest ballot issues on any state’s slate for the 2018 midterms is Amendment 3 in Florida. Amendment 3, otherwise known as “The Voter Control of Gambling in Florida,” would have the Sunshine State’s voters decide on a resolution that would be written into the state’s Constitution. It would codify that, before any new casino gaming could be built in the state, it would have to pass a vote with a 60% majority of the voters in the state approving the measure.
Attention on this Amendment is heavy because of the players in the game. In one of those examples of politics making for strange bedfellows, the Seminole Indian tribe and the powerful Disney Corporation have combined to spend over $25 million for the financing of an AstroTurf (meant to look like a grassroots effort entirely sponsored by corporations) political organization called Voters for Change. This political group has heavy television advertisements that are pushing voters to vote “yes” on the Amendment.
Why would the Seminoles and the House of Mouse join forces? Both are looking to preserve their monopolies in the state. The Seminole Indian tribe, with the Hard Rock Hotel franchise, has a monopoly on casino gaming in the state. If they were to face challenges from any other casino operations – such as MGM Resorts, Caesars, Boyd Gaming or others – they would stand to lose a sizeable chunk of revenue. Likewise, Disney has been able to preserve the Orlando area – which is the location of Disney World – as primarily a “family oriented” destination. If casino gaming were to come to Orlando, Disney could potentially see an impact on their revenues as people don’t come to the area to visit Mickey Mouse but to visit “the House.”
Another ballot measure in Florida, Amendment 13, will look to ban dog racing in the state. Dog racing in Florida has been part of the culture since the 1930s, but concerns over how often the greyhounds are raced, their treatment and their risks for injury have brought a movement to end the practice. This Amendment, along with Amendment 3, are being hotly contested and the vote will be extremely close.