Online Gaming May Be Ready by March in Pennsylvania

by Jim Hall

Pennsylvania Online GamingPennsylvania could pass online gaming legislation as early as March if all cards fall into place.

The state of Pennsylvania is one that has been trying to pass online gaming legislation for years. Lawmakers have introduced proposals that would see the state begin to offer online gaming such as casino and poker games but the legislation always seems to fall short. A recent hearing was cancelled for the House Gaming Oversight Committee to discuss the option and yet, analysts feel that despite the hearing not taking place, the state will still pass legislation within the next few months.

Online Gaming

There are twelve casinos in the state of Pennsylvania. This could seemingly create the largest online gambling market for an individual state as New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada only have a handful of operators. Lawmakers would like to allow the casino operators the ability to offer games online. Proposals for online gaming include setting a licensing fee at $10 million and making the tax rate 15 to 25 percent to be paid. Daily fantasy sports is also included in legislation along with tablet gaming at airports, skill based slot machines and multi-state progressive slot machines.

A joint gambling reform hearing should be taking place within the Senate and House so allow both governing bodies the ability to look at the proposals and discuss any concerns. The state has been considering several areas of expansion and while most lawmakers might be in favor of online gaming, they are not interested in other aspects. This leads to issues with a proposal moving forward unless changes are made.

Governor Tom Wolf has shown his support for online casino and poker game play, especially after he created and publicized the 2017 2018 budget. $250,000,000 was included in the package that would be created from online gaming. $100 million is expected within the current fiscal year with an additional $150 million for the budget year.

According to Wolf, the developments in legislature, the proposed budget does not provide a specific proposal for expansion but assumes revenues within the current ideas that are being discussed. So essentially, this amount could be increased or decreased based on what expansion actually takes place within the gaming industry.

A Natural Evolution

The casinos in Pennsylvania are already doing well, having generated $3.2 billion in revenues for 2016. This was an increase of 1.25% when looking at year-on-year totals. The state is second in the US in gaming revenues, with Nevada holding the lead. Jay Costa, a senator of the state, has said that online gaming is the natural evolution for Pennsylvania and the next logical step. Costa said that to some degree, daily fantasy sports and online gaming are already taking place. What the state would be doing would be regulating the gaming option as well as earning a piece of the pie.

Gaming operators have weighed in as well. D. Eric Schippers is the Senior Vice President of public affairs for Penn National who stated that the state is looking at a nearly $3 billion deficit and new revenue options are on the table. The company is looking at the situation as to how they can extend their existing investment within the Hollywood Casino as well as focus on online gaming.

With so many groups interested in a gambling expansion for the state, it would not be surprising to see Pennsylvania pass legislation this year to allow online gaming to be regulated and licensed. We shall see in the coming months if the estimation comes true or if the state will continue to discuss the activity month after month without any real movement forward.