An online poker bill could soon pass in Pennsylvania…finally. The state Senate voted 38-12 in favor of a gambling expansion measure which includes internet poker and gambling.
Heading into 2016, many expected the Keystone State to become the fourth state to pass pro-online poker legislation. But it was a disappointing year for the poker community when the state couldn’t get the job done.
Poker players in the state were cautiously optimistic at the beginning of 2017, hoping that a bill would pass. But for that to happen, the measure would need to get over one major hurdle: the Senate.
That happened last Wednesday when 38 of 50 lawmakers decided gambling expansion will help the state meet its budget. The state House of Representatives has voted in favor of pro-gambling legislation in the past. But this is the first time the Senate done so.
The bill now shifts back to the House for approval. It will be debated and discussed by Representatives in the coming weeks. And, hopefully, Pennsylvanians will be playing poker online before the end of the year. Cross your fingers.
Why it’s Moving Along Quickly
Pennsylvania lawmakers might be feeling pressure to get this bill passed quickly. Neighboring states such as Maryland and New York have gambling expansion plans in the works.
Should those states build new casinos and legalize online gambling while the Keystone State stands pat, Pennsylvania could drive across the border to spend money. Nebraska has a similar problem. The Cornhusker State doesn’t allow gambling, so its residents often travel across the border to Council Bluffs, Iowa to get some action. That isn’t good for Nebraska’s economy.
There’s another reason the bill is important. Pennsylvania has an ongoing tax issue with its 12 casinos. The state needs to generate more money in tax revenue from its casinos to fund community programs.
The online poker legislation will help. If the bill passes, internet gambling operators will pay a $5 million licensing fee for poker along with a 16-percent tax.
Online casino sites offering other casino games (i.e. blackjack, slots) would pay an additional $4 million fee and 54-percent tax on those games.
What Else is in the Bill?
The proposed bill, H 271, would legalize licensed online gambling operators and regulate daily fantasy sports games. Online lotteries would also be regulated.
A maximum of 12 licenses would be granted, matching the total number of land-based casinos in the state. Licenses must be approved by the Pennsylvania State Gaming Board.
The organization will also oversee online gambling activity much the same it does for land-based casinos.