The hopes of gamblers across Pennsylvania have received a shot of adrenaline recently as the state directly to the north, New York, is implementing a budget provision that would legalize online poker.

Gary Pretlow, the Chairman of the New York Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee, is ready to tackle the issue according to an article by Gambling Compliance (paywall).

Pretlow plans to make the issue public, once New York’s land-based casinos get on board. Pretlow is documented as saying, “I don’t want to throw competition at them before they have evened opened their doors.”

What does this mean for Pennsylvania?

The leading advocate for legalizing online gaming in the Keystone State is state Representative John Payne, who chairs the House Gaming Oversight Committee.

Payne made it clear in 2015, during his first push for legalization, that his focus is keeping Pennsylvania from turning into an “Atlantic City situation.”

Payne’s concern is on keeping Pennsylvania competitive with surrounding states with casinos which include New York, New Jersey, and Ohio.

Payne has reason to be nervous. New Jersey is is sending a measure to voters in November that would allow gambling in the northern part in the Garden State, not just within Atlantic City. Additionally, Massachusetts and New York have solidified plans to add a total of six new casinos in the coming years.

2016 the last chance for PA?

It is also important to note that Payne, the driving force behind the plan, will retire in 2016. Along with Payne, Nick Kotick, co-chair of the Gaming Oversight Committee, also plans to call it quits by the end of the year.

The element of the unknown after these two depart could make the passing of the legalization bill (HB 649) even more interesting.

All in all, efforts in both New York and Pennsylvania to legalize online gaming have a chance of becoming a reality sooner than later. The question being asked is who first? Both states’ lawmakers have gained traction recently on the race to the finish line.

The race between these two states is currently neck and neck but could also spill over into surrounding demographic areas such as Massachusetts, Ohio, and Maryland. Only time will tell which of these states will hit the jackpot and legalize online gaming first.

As of right now, this race is anyone’s guess.