2021 State of Play: US live dealers

Nothing washes away lawmakers objections to online casinos quite like a cash strapped treasury.

It took the GFC to spur the first US state legislatures to green-light intrastate online casinos. This was despite legal uncertainties at the federal level. There was also formidable anti-online gambling lobbying from various quarters (Sheldon Adelson in particular).

Now, with the US in the midst of its first economic contraction since the GFC, perhaps we are on the verge of seeing another round of states opening up their online casino markets? Just a week into 2021 Michigan declared its first internet casino would take bets by mid January. Perhaps this is a sign of things to come.

There should be fewer nasty surprises at the federal level. The Adelson influenced Trump administration is now gone. As is Mr Adelson who passed just recently.

Right now there are six US states that allow residents to play locally regulated online casino and/or poker games. Live dealers are available in a handful of these states.

Here’s the state of play as at January 2021.

New Jersey
Online casino games were legalised in 2012 in NJ, and first started taking bets at the end of 2013. It is almost a mature online casino market now and is leading the charge when it comes to live dealers. Locally licensed and situated live dealers have been serving players online there since 2016 thanks to an Ezugi/Golden Nugget partnership. Evolution’s live dealer studio in New Jersey now serves live games to a bunch of Atlantic City casinos offering live dealers online. They also stream tables from within Atlantic City casinos, some of which (like roulette from Resorts Casino Hotel) may be played abroad.

Delaware
Delaware was fast out of the blocks, beating New Jersey to the punch with the first locally licensed online casino launch in November 2013. Their industry has been slower to develop since then, particularly when it comes to live dealer games.

Nevada
Nevada moved early along with NJ and Delaware to legalise intrastate online gambling. It was a bit of a race in 3 to see who would launch first. But they limited their market to online poker games (ie no blackjack, roulette etc). This remains the case today.

Pennsylvania
The state legislature legalised online casino gambling in 2017. Shortly after, Evolution was awarded a provider license and began planning their Pennsylvania dealer studio. It was planned to begin operations late 2020. No doubt hampered by the pandemic disruption this has been pushed back to early 2021. In the meantime, they have been busy signing supply deals in anticipation of the studio’s launch.

West Virginia
West Virginia is still a market in its infancy. Laws allowing for locally licensed online casinos passed in 2019. The first online casino started taking bets in July 2020. Presently a handful of operators offer only RNG games to state residents.

Michigan
Michigan is the newest kid on the block. The Michigan Gaming Control Board began issuing licenses in December 2020. And if announcements made less than a week into 2021 prove accurate, we can expect the first operators to start accepting bets any day now.

Presently there are only 5 US states where locally licensed online casinos operators are serving games to residents (remember Nevada is poker only).

Technically there is another state of the US hosting live dealer games. In fact the first live streamed casino game from US soil came out of Connecticut.

Thanks to a partnership between Authentic Gaming and Foxwoods Casino, players around the world can play Foxwoods roulette online. The casino is located on a reservation of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. Within Connecticut, but not regulated by that state (and not available to Connecticut residents).

For the time being Connecticut remains grey in the map above.

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