New Pennsylvania Online Poker Bill in Legislature

Posted on June 20th, 2014 by Jon Pineda
Pennsylvania online poker, poker bill

Two state senators have introduced an online poker bill in Pennsylvania.

When Pennsylvania introduced casino gambling to the state in 2006, they couldn’t have realized that they’d soon become one of the biggest gaming states in the country, surpassing neighboring New Jersey in the process. Now, some lawmakers in the Keystone State are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again with the help of Internet poker.

A new bill introduced by State Senators Edwin Erickson (R-Chester) and Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) would authorize the state to license and regulate intrastate online poker. The legislation is the culmination of years of review and study of online gambling in the state, as Pennsylvania has looked for additional ways to expand their gambling industry.

A Poker-Only Bill

This bill would only allow for poker, and would not authorize other online casino games. However, it does allow Pennsylvania to consider entering into compacts with other states or US territories that have also regulated online poker. Right now, just three states have done so (Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware), with Nevada and Delaware having already signed a player pool-sharing compact that’s expected to go into effect later this year.

As with many bills that have been passed or proposed at the state level, there is strong “bad actor” language contained in this legislation. In the Pennsylvania proposal, any entity that continued to offer real money online gambling services to Americans after December 31, 2006 in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) would not be eligible for a license.

From a financial standpoint, Pennsylvania would offer a similar structure for companies when compared to other states, with only the specific numbers changing. Licensees would be expected to pay a $5 million licensing fee within 60 days of being awarded certification. They would also be taxed on their gross gaming revenue at a rate of 14 percent.

Sites Must Feature Branding by Licensees

If you’re looking for something different about this bill, it might come from the rules on branding and marketing. As in many jurisdictions, only existing gambling firms in the state can receive licenses, but those groups can partner with service providers to get the software for their online poker sites. This often leads to the sites being named after those partners, whether that be Ultimate Poker or 888 Poker in the United States, or PokerStars in many European nations.

But this won’t be allowed under the Pennsylvania bill.

“To ensure that actual control and supervision remains with the licensed entity, the licensed entity’s publicly accessible Internet website or similar public portal must be marketed and made available to the public under the licensed entity’s own name and brand and not the brands of third parties,” the bill states.

Other statutes in the bill would protect consumers in the case that a company should go insolvent and require licensees to help deal with problem gambling issues.

The bill, known as SB 1386, has been referred to the Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee in the Pennsylvania Senate. A companion bill is expected to be introduced in the Pennsylvania House soon. These bills follow a similar bill introduced by State Representative Tina Davis (D-Bucks County) last year, which failed to make it out of committee.

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