Could Pennsylvania Be Next to Legalize Online Gambling?

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A fresh attempt at the legalization and regulation of online poker in Pennsylvania may be close to introduction into the state legislature. Online Poker Report reported that those “close to the process” know of a new draft of a bill that is currently circulating in Harrisburg. The bill originates from the Republicans in the Senate, and it may be similar to the previous online gambling bill from Representative Tina Davis, though the tax rate will be much lower than her proposal.

As Pennsylvania legislators watch Nevada’s burgeoning online poker industry along with neighbors New Jersey and Delaware’s broader range of Internet gaming, they are looking for high revenue numbers and results that reflect positively on the land-based casinos. Recent reports of low revenue from Pennsylvania casinos could be prompting a push to bring business to the state via online gaming.

Recent Gaming Conference Gauges Interest

The World Regulatory Briefing USA was recently held in Philadelphia, and many of the state’s land-based gaming executives and state legislators were in attendance. The location of the gaming conference was indicative of the interest in discussing online gaming issues that will help the state’s existing casinos.

The two-day conference provided much information for and about the state. The general consensus from attendees was that they must watch other states to observe how they approach and implement online gaming, not to mention the costs versus revenue streams. That was the sentiment of the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Kevin O’Toole, as well as State Representative Mauree Gingrich. The latter told a local news outlet, “We do not have any estimates on potential additional revenues resulting from Internet gaming. Of course, before that could be accomplished, a tax rate, license fees, the regulatory structure would all have to be a part of the equation.”

Efforts of Rep. Tina Davis

In April, State Representative Tina Davis introduced House Bill 1235 to the legislature for consideration. The bill sought to legalize and regulate online poker and other casino games. Details of the proposal included a one-time authorization fee of $5 million to obtain gaming authorization, as well as a tax of 28 percent on daily gross gaming revenue. The push behind the bill included a focus on job creation, protection of gaming customers, and revenue that was currently going to offshore online gaming sites. “It is imperative,” she wrote, “that we maintain the integrity of our gaming industry amid inevitable federal preemption and competing states, as well as possible expansion of Internet games through the privatization of our own State Lottery.”

However, the bill failed to make progress in the legislature. It was declared dead in early June, though one of the members of the committee wanted to reexamine the bill in 2015. Representative Tina Pickett noted that the bill may move at the end of next year after seeing how properties in New Jersey are affected by that state’s decision to legalize Internet gambling. There is no indication that Davis has worked with anyone related to the above-mentioned GOP bill, but the basics of the legislation may have been used in order to draft the bill in a quicker fashion.

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