Pennsylvania Legislators Said To Be “Open-Minded” About Online Poker

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Pennsylvania online poker John Payne
Payne says that other lawmakers in Pennsylvania are at least open to the idea of online poker in the state. (Image:

Pennsylvania is one of the major targets for online poker advocates in 2015. It’s easy to see why: while the state isn’t as large as California, Pennsylvania seems to have an appetite for gambling expansion right now, and they are fewer interest groups that would need to be brought on board in order to build a coalition to pass legislation.

And according to the author of one of the bills that was introduced in the state this year, Pennsylvania lawmakers may be receptive to such a bill, or at least willing to learn more about it before making a decision.

That declaration comes from Pennsylvania State Representative John Payne (R-Hummelstown), who has introduced two bills related to online gambling and poker so far this year.

The most important of these bills is HB 649, one that would regulate Internet gaming throughout the state. He also introduced HR 140, a resolution that urges Congress to reject the federal online gambling ban known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act.

Governor, Others Said to be “Open-Minded”

“So far the governor has been open-minded, and taken the position of go show me, what it is, how it would work, and what the revenue numbers are,” Payne told Online Poker Report. “Most people are open-minded about it. Show me how it’s going to work, show me how we’re going to protect the minors and the compulsive gamblers, and show me how the revenue stream will work.”

Under Payne’s bill, both poker and other casino games would be legal to offer online. However, only existing casino firms in Pennsylvania would be eligible for an online gambling license. Each license would cost $5 million to obtain, and the state would collect 14 percent of gross revenues in taxes, the same rate they collect from land-based casinos.

According to Payne, there’s reason to be optimistic that his bill at least has a chance to be passed at some point. For one thing, he has bipartisan support behind the measure.

“Representative Kotik and I both introduced this bill and he’s my co-chair on the Democratic Side,” Payne said. “So we tried to set the tone by saying the two chairmen are going to cosponsor the bill and introduce the bill.”

Revenue from Online Poker Could Make Bill Attractive

In addition, Payne says, the fact that Pennsylvania needs to find new revenues sources should make this the perfect time for an Internet gaming bill to gain some real traction.

“If I have [the] choice of an income-tax increase or additional gaming revenue, I’m taking additional gaming revenue,” Payne said.

Payne has estimated that the Pennsylvania online gambling market could generate about $120 million in its first year, a figure he says is conservative considering that the state is slightly larger than New Jersey, which brought in about that much in casino win over its first full year. In New Jersey’s case, about a quarter of that revenue came from Internet poker.

This week also saw the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee hold hearings about how the state’s gaming industry could stay competitive against competition from states in the region that are aggressively expanding. Once again, Internet gaming was among the possibilities discussed.

“Internet gaming is here to stay, whether it’s a regulated product or whether it’s an illegal product,” said Caesars Entertainment executive vice president Jan Jones Blackhurst. “The Internet is not going away.”

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