In 2006 the George W. Bush administration decided to insert an article for the ban of online casinos in US, with the passing of an anti-terrorism law. That article that eventually became known as the UIGEA became one of the most controversial pieces of legislation in the modern history of US.
Enforcing the law and Black Friday of online gaming
When UIGEA came into effect in early September 2006, most of the big players in the US market had to leave the market, since no stock listed gaming company wanted to face an enforcement of the law by the US authorities. That created a massive gap for casino players based in US which was covered immediately by a number of operators that continued to accept wagers from the States, most prominently Pokerstars, Full Tilt, Absolute poker, Bodog (currently known as Bovada) and other non listed casino and poker rooms.
Their reign lasted until late 2010 when finally, after lots of discussions and complaints filed to the DoJ, the US government decided to enforce UIGEA to those companies that operated illegally after the law was voted. For the first time on that date the US government indicated that there were serious intentions to move towards a regulated environment in which individual states first and the federal administration afterwards, would shape a regulated environment for online gaming.
Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey go live with online casinos
None of the biggest states of the country (e.g California, Florida and New York) were ready for a transition to a regulated online gaming scene. Lobbying from brick n’ mortar casino operators intentionally stalled the process of state legislation voting and only 3 states have gone live with online gaming offering so far. Delaware, a state of little under 1m population was the first one to enter the new era but no major online gaming companies acquired a license there. It was not until Nevada and – mainly – New Jersey, issued online casino and poker licenses that things started heating up. At the moment people residing in these 3 states can legally play online casino with a bunch of operators. Most notably though, those residing in New Jersey have a decent offering of operators since the other two states are dominated by smaller players since their size (Nevada is currently populated by app 2.5 m people) couldn’t justify a major investment by gaming companies.
In the New Jersey market however, a number of reputable international firms signed joint venture with local land based casinos (mainly from the region of Atlantic City) and developed online products. A variety of brands and games are currently available for players. Pokerstars is the market leader in online poker after agreeing a partnership with Hard Rock casino group. At the same time the Borgata – Partypoker Joint venture has secured a fair market share, with 888 & Ceasars also being ranked high in the list of leading gaming companies.
In late 2018, companies are finally allowed to offer sports betting to New Jersey residents after an almost 5 year wait, when only poker and casino were allowed. A number of operators have already gone live, most notably Betstars (the betting branch of Pokerstars) and 888 sports with FanDuel and Draft Kings also launching a sports book product, changing their core business model from pool betting to a proper bookmaker. The market is expected to heat up even further in 2019 with bwin and bet365 already making a move to enter, with betting products that are significantly better than those of the aforementioned companies. Stay tuned. Next year is expected to be the most exciting so far in the modern era of online gaming in US