Online Casino Off The Table in Pennsylvania until This Fall

by Kyle Miller

Pennsylvania StateOnline casino gaming has stalled yet again in the state of Pennsylvania. Legislators will be resuming discussions in the fall, hopefully passing legislation to allow online gambling to take place within the state.

For months now, the state of Pennsylvania has seemingly been the next in line to offer online casino and poker gaming. Since 2013, we have yet to see another state enter the online gambling market of the US with only Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey offering online gaming options to some degree. Last year, it seemed that either California or Pennsylvania would be the next to pass legislation, with Pennsylvania coming into the forefront in 2016 as the next state to move forward. Now it seems that legislation has stalled yet again as legislators will be waiting until the fall to discuss the activity.

A revenue plan was recently approved by Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania which includes the anticipated revenues from a gambling expansion in the state. What the gambling expansion will actually be is yet to be determined but the state plans on earning at least $100 million in the process. We do know that legislators will be meeting in the fall to determine just what the expansion will entail.

Online Gambling Should Be Included

When talks resume, it seems that online gambling should be included in the mix. With online gambling, the stat would have to set rules and regulations such as licensing fees, tax rate, boundaries, etc so this could be what is under discussion in the fall months. The state is hoping to use online gambling as well as other measures to be able to fill a hole of $532 million in which the state needs to meet their budget. Included in the list of gaming options are the proposed slot gaming options at local airports and daily fantasy sports regulations.

Online gambling may be under discussion but still may be far from passage. The Senate does not seem as supportive as the House of Representatives with senators feeling the tax rates suggested are too low as well as citing a lack of consumer protections for those who wish to gamble online.

Also in the mix now is a new tax that will tax effect next week. Land based gaming venues in the state will now have to pay a 16% tax on table game revenues which is 2% higher than the 14% previously paid. Casinos are not happy about this change in taxes but some see it as a small compromise to be able to soon offer online gaming. Legislators may be using online gaming as a tactic in the hopes that operators will be okay with the new tax rate.

Consumer Protections Not Really in Place

As pointed out in an article, the state of Pennsylvania does not necessarily offer the best in consumer protections when you look at the language of the bill such as HB 2150. Tax revenues that gaming operators owe will go to the Commonwealth of the state and be held in a trust. The security of player funds would then be decided upon by the regulator at a later date. Basically this means if an operator were to be licensed for online gaming and then went bankrupt, players would be the last to be paid while the state would be given tax revenues first.

Overall, it will be interesting to see if Pennsylvania actually passes legislation in the fall. It seems something always gets in the way and the state is shut down once again from providing poker and casino game players with options online. Only time will tell if the state will be able to create legislation that will pass into law and when the actual discussions will take place this fall remain a mystery.