Online Poker in Connecticut: What can we expect?

Online Poker in Connecticut: What can we expect?
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Connecticut became the seventh state to legalize online poker when Gov. Ned Lamont signed HB6451 into law in May. However, there are still significant obstacles to overcome. We have explored the likelihood of legal online poker games in Connecticut taking place any time soon.

Does the Connecticut Online Gambling Bill Include Poker?

HB6451 legalized online poker along with online CT sports betting and casino gaming. It created three master licensees: the Mashantucket Pequot, the Mohegan Tribe and the Connecticut Lottery. Each of those licensees was permitted to host one online skin.

The Mashantucket Pequot went for DraftKings, the Mohegan Tribe partnered with FanDuel and the Lottery chose SugarHouse. The online skin covers sports betting and daily fantasy sports. The Lottery isn't permitted to host online casino games, so Sugarhouse won't be part of any possible additions of poker.

DraftKings and FanDuel will be able to launch video poker games and live dealer options like Caribbean Stud as part of their online casino offerings. However, real money online poker games will be another matter entirely.

Is PokerStars CT the Most Likely Option?

It certainly is. FanDuel is owned by Flutter Entertainment, the world’s largest online gambling company. It also owns PokerStars, the No. 1 online poker brand in the world. Therefore, Flutter can launch PokerStars in Connecticut as part of its deal with the Mohegan. PokerStars is already live in Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so a launch in Connecticut isn’t that much of a stretch.

Right now, DraftKings doesn’t offer online poker. That could change if it is successful in its bid to purchase London-listed gambling giant Entain. It submitted a $22 billion bid for the company last month, which the board is considering. Entain is famous in the US for being the co-owner of BetMGM, but it also runs popular online gambling brands including Ladbrokes, Coral, Bwin and partypoker. If DraftKings snaps up Entain, it could launch the partypoker offering in Connecticut.

Online poker in the US

More US Poker Brands Possibly Branching to CT

The nature of the Connecticut law prevents poker brands such as GGPoker, 888poker and Unibet Poker from launching. It hands DraftKings, FanDuel and SugarHouse an oligopoly, with no scope for new competitors to enter the market.

It will be up to these three operators to determine whether it would be commercially viable to launch online poker in the state. West Virginia has legalized online poker, but the state has a population of just 1.8 million, and no operators have launched there. Connecticut has a larger population at 3.6 million and a much higher GDP, so it might be viable. However, Connecticut is a lot smaller than Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, so that may deter Flutter Entertainment.

What About Shared Player Pools?

Delaware successfully circumnavigated the issue of its small population by agreeing to an interstate compact with Nevada in 2013. That brought Delaware’s population of almost 1 million together with Nevada’s population of 3.1 million. New Jersey joined the compact in 2018, creating a combined market with more than 13 million people.

That sort of approach could help Connecticut to get online poker off the ground. Nothing in HB6451 paves the way for Connecticut to join the sort of compact formed between Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.

However, shared player pools – known in the industry as shared liquidity – between states could soon become a reality across the country. The law preventing it from taking place right now is the 1961 Wire Act. In 2019, District Court Judge Paul Barbadoro decided that the scope of the Wire Act is limited to sports betting, clearing the way for interstate online gambling and poker.

In January 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed that decision. The allotted time to seek further appeal has now passed, and the Biden Administration has confirmed that “the government is not planning to seek Supreme Court review of the First Circuit’s decision”. It means Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Connecticut could theoretically team up for a large online poker network.

Expected Online Poker CT Launch

There are a few ways in which online poker could launch in Connecticut. Flutter Entertainment could decide to roll out PokerStars at any time as part of its agreement with the Mohegan Tribe. DraftKings could potentially launch online poker if they gained the in-house capabilities.

It the relatively small population proves to be a deterrent; Connecticut could capitalize upon the apparent demise of the Wire Act and join a network featuring the other states with legal online poker gaming. Current regulations mean one of the licensees would need to run it, but that could be tweaked. It is unlikely that online poker will launch in Connecticut in 2021, but it could become a reality in the not-too-distant future.

Meanwhile, online sports betting is now live in Connecticut , so place your first bets below:

 

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