Pennsylvania iGaming Legislation Update

by Kyle Miller

State representative John Payne says Pennsylvania has 50/50 odds to pass online gaming legislation this year.

The state of Pennsylvania has been the closest so far this year in regards to passing online poker and casino gaming legislation. For months now, all eyes have been on the state as legislation has been introduced and moved quickly forward, only to be left by the way side. Currently, the state is set to use online gambling to bring in $100 million in additional revenues for the state budget, but no legislation has been approved to do so.

What’s Going On?

Beginning next week, lawmakers of the state in the House Gaming Oversight Committee will be looking a regulated online gaming bill. A hearing will be one of many meetings to take place in regards to the online poker gaming proposal. The bill has already been discussed over 50 times, on separate occasions, since last year began.

Representative John PayneRepresentative John Payne has reported these meetings and continues to be a sponsor of the legislation as well as online gaming in general. Online gambling was approved by the House back in June with a vote of 114 to 85 and now the Senate has to take action. The bill has sat within the Senate for months now with no action on the group of lawmaker’s part. If the Senate were to pass the measure, Governor Tom Wolf would see the bill placed on his desk. There are now only a few days remaining for the measure to be considered this year.

Payne Speaks Out

For months, Representative Payne has tried to push for online gambling to be legalized and regulated in the state. Just yesterday, Payne stated that he is going to do everything within his power to get the option legalized, along with daily fantasy sports. However, he does consider himself a realist and understands that at this point, the chances of the Senate actually moving the bill forward are at around 50%.

The bad news is that Payne is going to retire by November’s end. This means that new lawmakers will have to take over his efforts next year, which could actually cause a problem. According to Payne, a brand new bill would have to be introduced in 2017 and everything would start over on the subject of online gaming. However, the ground work has been laid this year so if this were the case, there would at least be something done to help move the option forward.

Competition

Pennsylvania needs to get a move on if they want to be able to stay in competition with neighboring states, especially where online gambling is concerned. New Jersey is already a competitor while New York and even California are considering online legislation. Other states are also in the mix. Pennsylvania has to stay competitive in the online game as well as land based casino options. States that surround PA are already boosting their casino industry and Pennsylvania must do the same to be able to hold on to patrons.

The state already brings in more than $3 billion each year in casino gaming and is second in the US only next to Nevada. The state does not want to end up like New Jersey’s Atlantic City where five casinos shut down within a two year time frame. Even PA operators are heading out of state. Just last month, SugarHouse Casino, an operator of the state, launched an online gambling product in NJ. While this is bad for the state as business has moved out, it gives the casino operator a heads up and the ability to learn the industry before legislation is passed in PA. Once the activity is available, SugarHouse will be able to offer services in PA as well.

Overall, the state has to move forward if they want the money for the budget as well as have the opportunity to stay competitive. It will be interesting to see what exactly happens as the legislative session comes to a close.