Pennsylvania Internet Gaming “Imperative,” Four State Senators Say 

Posted on June 5th, 2015 by Daniel Ryder
Pennsylvania Internet gaming online gambling poker legislation

Governor Tom Wolf says he’s open to listening to new ideas on Pennsylvania Internet gaming, and he will likely hear many as both House and Senate lawmakers are actively working on iGaming legislation. (Image: AP Photo/The Citizens’ Voice, Mark Moran)

Pennsylvania Internet gaming has been much discussed over the last few months as one state lawmaker after another has authored new legislation to legalize and create a regulated market for online gambling, but unlike the elected politicians in Washington, Republicans are largely leading the charge.

After three propositions were introduced in the State House of Representatives and the Gaming Oversight Committee passed HR 140, a resolution urging its federal delegation to oppose the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), a bill that would criminalize online gaming and Internet poker, Pennsylvania lawmakers seem eager to attach their names to new legislation.

This week, a quartet of Republican state senators released a memorandum to their 46 other constituents informing them to expect proposed amendments to the current Pennsylvania Race Horse Development and Gaming Act in the coming months.

More Slots, More Booze, More Online Poker!

State Senators Kim Ward (R-District 39), Robert Tomlinson (R-District 6), Elder Vogel (R-District 47), and Joseph Scarnati III (R-District 25) assert that the current gambling law needs amended to adapt to changing technologies in order to better position itself to compete against neighboring markets.

Those amendments include:

1. Waiving the slot machine membership fee patrons are currently required to secure

2. Extending casino liquor license hours to adhere to the industry’s business model, likely permitting alcohol to be served 24/7

3. Allowing casinos to place a limited number of slot machines at non-primary and ancillary locations

4. Granting casinos that currently offer slots and table games to also offer online gaming and Internet poker

Naturally, all four bullet points come at a cost to the casino operators.

While specifics on the fee structure were not released in the memo, each amendment will involve additional expenses to be incurred by the gambling companies.

“These enhancements and reforms are reflective of the challenges faced both in establishing and maintaining the viability of the Pennsylvania gaming industry in an increasingly competitive environment,” the notice read.

“It is imperative that we avoid the status quo and ensure Pennsylvania casinos have the tools necessary to continue to thrive and guarantee the job security of the many men and women employed by the Pennsylvania gaming industry.”

Pen Pushers

Passing Internet gambling legislation is often controversial due to preconceived views and concerns among the voting public and those working inside the capital.

It’s why just three states out of 50 have passed online gaming laws since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was essential overruled by a Department of Justice legal counsel opinion.

But the tide has seemed to change in Pennsylvania, and lawmakers are ready to sign their John Hancocks.

With a recent poll showing Pennsylvanians support legislation to regulate online gambling by a margin of two to one, and three pro-iGaming bills in the House and now the Senate scheduled to introduce amendments to current gambling laws, the time is ripe for passage.

As a The Patriot-News recently said in an editorial op-ed, the largest newspaper in the Harrisburg capital region, “Its elected state representatives should pull the trigger so the state can capture tax dollars it is losing to external operators while protecting its youth.”

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