Pennsylvania Sees Third Online Gambling Bill Introduced This Year

on April 9, 2015
Pennsylvania three online poker bills

There are now three online gambling bills tabled in the Pennsylvania State House. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

Pennsylvania legislators will now have three online gambling bills to consider this session, as yet another lawmaker has put forward a proposal to regulate Internet gaming.

Representative Tina Davis (D-Bucks County) introduced the new bill last week, offering up a different all-encompassing online gambling framework as an alternative to an earlier bill from Representative John Payne (R-Dauphin County).

The Davis bill would allow existing Pennsylvania casinos to offer both poker and casino games to state residents over the Internet.

In order to do so, they would have to pay an authorization fee of $5 million, which would earn them a one-year license to run online gambling sites.

After that, licenses could be renewed for three year terms for $500,000.

Davis Bill is Heavy on Responsible Gaming

Davis also placed plenty of emphasis on making sure that both the state and the casinos would do their best to offer responsible gaming that reduces the risks of problem gambling for players.

The bill would allow for players to set loss limits or even place themselves on self-exclusion lists if they wished to be banned from the sites.

“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 wrote in a memo earlier this year.

“A responsible internet gaming system must be created in order to protect Pennsylvanians and the success of the established gaming industry in the Commonwealth.”

Those protections may go further than players want, however. Davis’ bill would require players to register for membership at one of the 11 current casinos in Pennsylvania before they could play on the Internet sites.

A similar clause was placed in one proposed online poker bill in California, but was then removed after it was poorly received by players who feared that many wouldn’t want to go through the hassle of registering at a casino to play Internet poker.

The bill would tax all online gambling activity at 28 percent of daily gross gaming revenue. That money would go to the Property Tax Relief Fund, the State Lottery Fund, and the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund.

Two Other Bills Could Also Be Considered

The bill will now have to be considered against two similar bills that have already been put forward this session. Payne’s bill would also regulate all online gambling games, but has a much lower 14 percent tax rate on daily gross gaming revenue.

There’s also a third bill from Representative Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware County), which would only regulate online poker without allowing for other casino games.

Of these three bills, most observers believe that Payne’s legislation has the best chance to advance. Payne is the chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, putting him in an advantageous place to guide his own legislation through the committee phase.

It may also be telling that while Davis has signed on as a co-sponsor of Payne’s bill, Payne has not done the same for Davis’ proposal.

It may be easier to gauge the potential of online gambling in Pennsylvania after two upcoming hearings on the topic that are scheduled over the coming weeks.

The first, on Internet Gaming and Mobile Gaming, will take place on April 16, while a second hearing is scheduled for May 6.