Pennsylvania Now Has Three Competing Online Poker Bills

Posted on April 8th, 2015 by Jon Pineda
Pennsylvania three online poker bills

John Payne has authored the online poker bill with the best prospects in the Pennsylvania legislature. (Image: House Majority Policy Committee/pagoppolicy.com)

Pennsylvania has no shortage of online poker bills, as a state Representative has just introduced what is now the third piece of iGaming legislation to hit the state’s legislature this year.

The new bill, proposed by Representative Tina Davis (D-Bucks County), would allow for both online poker and casino games to be regulated in the state, but also includes some interesting provisions that may not be popular among fans of Internet poker.

“Considering efforts across the country to legalize internet gaming, it is imperative that we maintain the integrity of our gaming industry amid inevitable federal preemption and competing states,”

Davis said earlier this year in a memo related to the bill. This bill is almost identical to another piece of legislation that Davis introduced in 2013.

Bill Includes Problem Gambling Controls And In-Person Registration

Most of the bill is standard for an iGaming bill. Under her legislation, Davis would allow Pennsylvania’s existing casinos to apply for licenses to operate online gambling sites.

To start, each prospective licensee would have to pay an authorization fee of $5 million, followed by $500,000 for each three year license renewal. The bill also outlines measures the state and casinos would take to limit problem gambling, including self-exclusion lists and limits on deposits and losses.

However, there are a couple of areas in which the Davis bill stands out from most other online poker efforts. For one, players would have to register to play at a Pennsylvania casino before they could start playing at online sites.

This measure proved unpopular when suggested by California Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale), as players feared that casual players wouldn’t bother heading out to a casino to start their accounts, which would limit the size of the online poker player pool.

That eventually caused Gatto to drop that clause from his proposal.

Davis’ bill also features a relatively high tax rate. All online gambling activities in the state would be taxed at 28 percent of daily gross gaming revenue, with those tax dollars going to property tax relief and other specified programs.

Payne Bill More Likely to Gain Traction

That tax rate is double that of what is likely the most promising online poker bill in the state, the one introduced by state Representative John Payne (R-Dauphin County).

He is proposing a 14 percent tax on gaming revenues, and his bill does not require in person registration, though it does have the same $5 million licensing fee that Davis is proposing.

Most promising for Payne’s bill is the fact that he is the chairman of the House Committee on Gaming Oversight, putting him in perfect position to push his bill forward.

That said, the fact that these two bills, as well as a third, poker-only bill proposed by state Representative Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware County), are all in the legislature at the same time does not mean that Pennsylvania will see the same kind of divisions on Internet poker that have plagued Caifornia.

The bills proposed by Davis and Payne share some of the same co-sponsors, and Davis has even co-sponsored Payne’s bill, which suggests it might be easier to reach a consensus in this case.

The bills may gain more traction after an upcoming pair of hearings in front of the House Committee on Gaming Oversight. Those two hearings, on April 16 and May 6, are expected to cover Internet Gaming, with the April 16 hearing also covering Mobile Gaming.

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