Pennsylvania Proposes Internet Gambling Bill

Posted on April 23rd, 2013 by Todd Wilkins

Pennsylvania Proposes Internet Gambling BillPennsylvania Rep. Tina Davis introduced an online gambling bill before the state legislature, several months after revealing her intentions to do so.

Hoping to keep in step with Nevada and the neighboring states of New Jersey and Delaware, who are all making progress in preparation of launching sometime in 2013, Davis seeks to create jobs and revenue in the Keystone State. Pennsylvania has recently overtaken New Jersey as the U.S.’ second-ranked gambling market following Nevada, a distinction that Davis and other pro-gambling proponents in the state would like to preserve.

The proposed bill looks quite different than the initial draft that was revealed to the public in early 2013. That version was an intrastate online gambling bill that sought a $16.7 million fee from gaming operators who would be taxed at a 20% rate. The latest measure has been amended to charge only a $5 million license fee good for three years and renewable for $500,000, with gross revenues taxed at 28%, eGR reported. Also, Davis now favors interstate and international agreements designed to increase player pools.

However, unlike Nevada, where both residents and tourists would be able to register and play online poker, Pennsylvania’s bill allows only state residents to gamble within its borders. Those residents must visit a land-based casino to register and establish an Internet account. Also unlike Nevada, a complete slate of online casino games would be offered, as well as poker.

HB 1235, which is co-sponsored by several other lawmakers in addition to primary sponsor Davis, permits only existing casino operators to be able to apply for a license. The 28% generated revenue, which likely would rank among the industry’s highest, would benefit programs within the state. Davis modified her original draft of the bill after receiving input from casino executives. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will oversee licensing and regulations.

Davis’ measure now makes its way to the House Gaming Oversight Committee, where its prospects of passing are seen as less than favorable. The 25-member committee is dominated by Republicans by a 3-2 margin. Davis has her work cut out for her in endeavoring to sway at least some of the 15 GOP committee members who are typically against gambling expansion plans.

One of Davis’ staunchest opponents is expected to be Rep. Paul Clymer, who sits alongside Davis on the committee. When Davis announced months ago that her Internet gambling proposal would be forthcoming, Clymer remarked that he might volley legislation seeking to ban online gaming in the Independence State.

Thus far, only the conservative state of Utah has enacted legislation forbidding online gambling since the U.S. DoJ found the 1961 Wire Act to apply only to sports betting in December, 2011. That ruling paved the way for individual states to move forward with Internet gambling legislation in the absence of federal regulations. However, Washington state has had a law since 2006 which makes it a felony to play poker online.

The debate among Pennsylvania lawmakers over whether online gambling regulations should be enacted in the state promises to be an interesting one. Davis appeared on local television last month and admitted her unfamiliarity with the legislation of Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. One would think that a legislator proposing Internet gambling regulations would be well-versed on what other states have passed in that regard. Let’s hope that Davis has done her homework lately or the Republican-controlled Gaming Oversight Committee may quickly put the kibosh on her proposal.

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