Pennsylvania online poker is shaping up to be a worthy candidate for legalization in the Keystone State.
Politicians in Harrisburg on both sides of the aisle are coming together to find new sources of revenue as a continued pension program plagues the state and first-term Governor Tom Wolf aims to increase spending by upwards of 10 percent.
The House Gaming Oversight Committee is pushing legislation from its chairman Rep. John Payne (R-District 106) that would legalize interactive gaming including Internet poker.
By Payne’s own calculations, legalizing iGambling would potentially bring in hundreds of millions of dollars for the struggling state.
In August, Moody’s Investors Services downgraded Pennsylvania’s credit rating, making it costlier for the state to borrow money.
“A fiscal cocktail of rising pension obligations, delayed state reimbursement for capital projects, competition from charter schools, and a failure to raise property taxes will continue to push districts into distress,” Moody’s said in its report.
More Revenues, Please
Wolf’s budget, which the Republican-controlled legislature has continually voted down, is now approaching 110 days since it was due.
The Republicans passed and approved a $30.2 billion budget, a four percent increase, but Wolf vetoed the measure as he wants a $31.6 billion plan, a nine percent jump.
“I can’t cave on this,” Wolf said to Pittsburgh radio station KDKA-AM. “I’m one of 12.7 million Pennsylvanians, and we’ve got to have our state on a sound financial basis.”
Considering Pennsylvania lawmakers are discussing how to generate an additional billion dollars, it will take much more than legalizing gambling online to make up the shortfall.
Payne and his Democratic counterpart on the Gaming Oversight Committee, State Rep. Nick Kotik (D-District 45), recognize that truth. Kotik, who wants to legalize online gambling, sports betting, and put slot machines in the state’s international airports, said gambling expansion would at least partially help the deficit.
“We are at a critical time in this state in terms of funding steams and funding needs,” Kotik said last month. “I welcome a serious discussion on these expanded forms of gaming to not just stay ahead of the curve but to invest real dollars into where they’re needed most to put the state back on track.”
More Than Poker Required
Wishes by many Pennsylvania leaders to join Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey in offering online gambling should be aware that poker alone likely wouldn’t create substantial revenues to benefit governmental objectives.
Internet poker has largely been a disappointment since its reintroduction in 2013.
The isolated card rooms and player shortfalls have created scarce tables.
September was an extraordinarily poor month for iPoker, both New Jersey and Delaware reporting all-time lows. Nevada ceased reporting statistics for digital poker earlier this year.
The Garden State pulled in just $1.7 million for online poker in September, a 15 percent drop from September 2014. Year-to-date, Internet poker is down a whopping 22 percent.
Across the river in Delaware, things are even worse.
Though the First State reached a player interstate compact to share liquidity with Nevada, revenues continue to plummet. Poker revenue totaled just $24,523 last month, 21.5 percent less than in August.