While the sporting world focused on the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament, there were a number of important happenings in the poker world. Here is a recap of the key headlines from the past week.
New York Moves Closer To Legalizing Online Poker
New York has been working on getting online poker for a while now but it appears to be getting closer to a reality. It has been included in the state Senate's budget for 2017/18. This follows the Senate passing a regulation bill last year by a whopping margin of 53-5, then another bill was passed 11-0 in February. This is largely due to money, of course, as online poker will bring a lot of revenue into New York, starting with a $10 million up-front licensing fee that is required of operators. There are still a few who believe that New York is making the wrong choice. And remember, online poker was also in the 2016/17 budget at first but taken out of the final draft. However, that was before the votes were overwhelming for online poker. This is expected to pass the Senate and then head to the Assembly with no problems.
West Virginia's Casino Revenue is Struggling
West Virginia is the next state on the list that is investigating the legalization of online poker as their casinos aren't bringing in the revenue they used to in the past. In 2016, West Virginia's casinos raked in $638.5 million, but that was down 2.6% from 2015. So far in 2017, things are looking even worse. West Virginia has five casinos but a lot of neighboring states are stepping up with their casinos and that's created a lot of competition. Now the state has to look at other avenues to bring in revenue. For example, West Virginia's Hollywood Casino was a big moneymaker, but its numbers have dropped dramatically since the opening of MGM's $1.4 billion powerhouse, National Harbor. Since that opened its doors, the slot machines at Hollywood have gone down 20%, and the table games have seen a decline of 22%. Of course, what player would go to the Hollywood Casino when it's merely gaming there compared to the star-studded lineup of restaurants and performance acts that are offered up at the MGM National Harbor. West Virginia has been looking into online casinos since 2014, but this might be the catalyst to speed up the process now.
Portugal Online Poker Numbers Take a Dip
Portugal legislated online poker last year, giving their first license to PokerStars in November. The numbers were great when PokerStars started, but there has been a drop-off over the last few months. Two weeks after the site was up and running about 43,000 players were playing as opposed to about 37,350 that were tracked recently. The study was conducted by PokerScout, which keeps track of online poker rankings. However, that doesn't mean that PokerStars is in trouble in Portugal - especially when you compare their numbers to those of the sites in Spain, Italy and France. Portugal has less people than those three countries. However, the expectation is that the amount of players would continue to grow from the outset but it seems like - at least for now - the interest has tapered off a little bit. And keep an eye on a regional merger as Portugal, Italy, France and Spain have been rumored to be coming together to form a network of their players.