The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) 2023 Summer Meeting took place from July 12-15 in Denver. It included numerous discussions on the present and future states of online casinos. Specifically, Iowa online casinos.
Howard Glaser, global head of government affairs and legislative council at Light & Wonder (formerly Scientific Games), said at least one state will legalize online casinos in 2024. He listed five candidates:
- New York
“I can’t tell you which of those states is going to pass iGaming next, but that’s the group. Between one and some number next year.”
The council, which neither promotes nor opposes gaming, meets twice a year to discuss matters involving the proper regulation of the industry. It focuses on providing information from all sides so legislators can make educated decisions about their states’ gambling laws.
Iowa online casinos years in the making
The Hawkeye State allows retail casino gambling, lottery, daily fantasy sports, and sports betting. However, Iowa online casinos are still illegal.
Iowa lawmakers first began discussing online gaming in 2020 after retail casinos closed their doors for 10 weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first attempt at passing legislation came in 2021 during the following session, led by Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, and it proved unsuccessful.
Kaufmann tried again to no avail in 2022 and 2023, saying earlier this year that he didn’t expect either to pass. He added that it was a multiyear effort, with awareness and support growing each year.
Iowa was not alone in failing to legalize online casinos in 2023, either. Nine states introduced bills during this year’s legislative session, and only one passed: Rhode Island.
Legislators from several states, including Indiana and Illinois, also began their efforts in 2021.
Legal online casinos in seven states (and counting)
Rhode Island’s recent victory made it the seventh state to legalize online casinos in the US. Its casinos will go live next year, joining the trend-setting states of Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Glaser’s comments at last week’s NCLGS meeting implied multiple states could add to that list next year. His five-state list might not be complete, either.
Colorado Department of Revenue Executive Director Mark Ferrandino announced at the NCLGS meeting that talks had begun around legalizing online casinos in his home state. Some online operators are already preparing to launch with the prospects of a favorable polling outcome in 2024.
Any state that is successful at legalizing iGaming in 2024 will look to launch in 2025. If three gain enough momentum, the US will have 10 states with legal online casinos by the middle of this decade.
Could Iowa legalize online casinos in 2024?
The sentiment has grown in the past year for Iowa to legalize online casinos, with panelists mentioning its possibility during the September 2022 East Coast Gaming Conference.
Despite the progress made since 2021, Iowa still has prominent roadblocks to overcome.
According to Matthew Kredell of PlayUSA, several of the state’s retail casinos have concerns over cannibalization. In other words, retail casinos fear that online casinos will take away their business.
These concerns have proven unfounded through several studies, even helping to grow retail casino business in online casino markets.
Kaufmann told PlayUSA,
“We need to get all the casinos on board. Until that happens, the chances of it passing are zero.”
Legislators are the second hurdle. This year’s session had too many non-gaming issues that took precedence, leaving iGaming legislation by the wayside.
We are on the way to online casinos becoming a hot-topic issue, but other factors remain at play. Increased support from voters and casinos will advance these efforts.
The nationwide market is trending toward a tipping point, and Iowa figures ahead of the curve. Next year is not a lock, but another failure in 2025 would be colossal.