Several US states are taking a hard look at legalizing online poker and casino sites for residents but the potential profit involved may be underwhelming when compared to the shortfalls faced in many state budgets.
The District of Columbia has already passed legislation that could allow it to offer online casino and poker sites and New Jersey, California, and Nevada are all considering passing their own laws that could pave the way to offering their own intra-state online poker sites.
The primary driver for many states is a simple one: the lure of cold, hard cash. With the lingering recession in the US and many states facing serious cutbacks, pulling in additional revenue from online gambling and other avenues is an easy fix in the eyes of many state residents and legislators.
Whether or not online gambling is the panacea that many see it as remains to be seen, however, as estimates of the profits that states could be in line for vary dramatically based on who you listen to.
Industry groups and pro-gambling lobbyists point to a potential value of $10 billion per year for the US gambling market, but studies that individual states have done have produced much smaller figures, with the state of Iowa releasing a study that shows it could rake in between 43 million to $13 million a year while California projects it could make as much as $250 million.
Those figures might seem appealing but many state budget shortfalls are in the billions of dollars (over $9 billion in the case of California) so any revenues from online gambling would be a small band-aid for most states, with more significant revenues coming from brick-and-mortar casinos and state lotteries.
Most states are also only considering adding online poker sites for now, which also serves to limit the potential profits especially when the sites can only be accessed by residents of the state.