Rare Hearing in PA in Support of Online Gambling Legislation

by Jim Hall

Online gambling continues to be stalled in Pennsylvania, so House takes time to hold hearing in the hopes of pushing efforts forward.

Yesterday, a rare hearing was held in the state of Pennsylvania in efforts to see online gambling legislation pass through the Senate. The House Gaming Oversight Committee held a hearing to try and move things along so the state can begin to earn the much needed revenues that online gambling can provide.

The Need To Hurry

John PayneThe state has a big need to hurry and pass legislation as only a few days remain in the legislative session for the year. If nothing is done, then the state will essentially have to start over in 2017. This is not what most legislators want to do. Chairman of the committee, John Payne, has been a strong proponent for online gambling in the state and is a sponsor of the current legislation waiting to be voted on by the Senate in regards to online gambling.

Payne will be retiring in November after serving in legislation for 13 years. Payne has worked hard to be able to bring about protections for consumers who want to take part in online gambling as well as bring in revenues to the state. According to Payne, the meeting that took place yesterday was the 55th and the last one that will cover the subject of online gaming within the committee.

Payne has worked hard on and for AB 2150 to try and see online casino and poker gaming brought to the state, as well as daily fantasy sports. Additional language in the bill would see video gaming terminals also added to gambling options. The House was able to pass the legislation in June and the bill has sat for many months now awaiting a vote by the Senate.

The Senate only has a three day time frame now to vote on the measure in 2016. From the 24th to the 26th of October, the Senate will be in session. The House committee held their meeting to be able to convince the Senate members of why the legislation needs to be addressed now and passed. No new information was really provided at the meeting and stress was placed on why something must be done now, reiterating what the industry would provide for the state.

Poker Players Alliance Testimony

There were only three speakers at the meeting, including John Pappas, the Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance. Pappas discussed why the subject should not be put off until 2017, mentioning how Full Flush Poker, an online poker site shut down recently and players in the state were left with no access to their funds as well as the site not being able to be held accountable.

This example is a big reason why regulation needs to be in place. Individuals can easily go online and gamble at casino and poker sites. They can win money and cash out. But there is also a risk. If the site were to shut down, like Full Flush, or have other issues, because no regulations are in place, the player’s funds are not protected. The consumers need to be protected because they want to enjoy the activity but also because money could be brought to the state. A ton of money is spent each year from Pennsylvania and other states on unregulated gambling as players want to enjoy the activity. The state needs to take advantage of this want and be able to reap the rewards.

Taxes

Another issue on the table is the tax problem in the casino industry. In September, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruled that a portion of the state law where casinos pay taxes to host cities and counties is unconstitutional. These areas have been left without monies until the law can be fixed. So legislators need to focus on both online gambling as well as this tax issue before the year is up. It will be interesting to see if next week, lawmakers will be able to move forward on one or hopefully both subjects.