Will Pennsylvania iGaming Push be Affected by Policy Change?

by Jim Hall

Pennsylvania iGamingWith a new attorney general in charge, with the push for online gambling in Pennsylvania be affected?

Online gambling is on the mind of several states in the US, including Pennsylvania. For years now, Pennsylvania legislators have been looking at entering the online gambling industry. Bills have been proposed and moved through the Senate and House, only to fall short in the end. This year, the state seems poised to enter the industry for real, but the new United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions may create a problem for the state in regards to online gaming.

Sessions and iGaming

Earlier in the year, when Sessions was set to take office as the new United States Attorney General, he stated that he would be taking a closer look at the opinion of the Department of Justice when it comes to the Wire Act of 1961 which lead to states having the ability to pass legislation to offer online gambling activities. The decision by the DOJ in 2011 led to Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey passing legislation and providing online poker and casino gaming to residents and visitors of their state.

Now, a report by the Times Tribune has pointed out that lawmakers are looking at the impact that Sessions might have on the industry if the decision by the DOJ from 2011 is changed. Representative Aaron Kaufer is a House panel member in the state who said that everyone is sort of waiting to see what they will have to say, meaning the Department of Justice, and the concern is that all their hard work to enter the industry will be for naught.

Thomas Decker is an attorney and former member of the state Gaming Control Board who says he had confidence that Sessions will hold true to the ruling of the DOJ that states should have control of such decisions. However, Decker also says that if the opinion is overturned, it should not have a great legal impact on if state laws should be able to legalize gambling.

Yet, the main reason that states were given the right was due to the DOJ’s ruling and Sessions is known to be quite conservative when it comes to such issues as gambling. He comes from the state of Alabama which does not take part in gambling such as the lottery or casino gaming. There are tribal facilities but that is all you will find when visiting the state. The new AG also stated that he was ‘shocked’ at the decision by the DOJ so it does not seem that he will be willing to stand by the opinion from 2011.

Shift the Focus

Mario Scavello, the Senate Panel Chairman, stated that the gambling policy shift should not be the concern and legislators should be more worried about getting a bill for gambling expansion on the table and passed through the House and Senate.

If the state is able to pass legislation, it could bring about as much as $120 million in monies to the state, from licensing fees alone. A full package could produce as much as $700 million a year for the state if all aspects are made available, including the addition of video gaming terminals in bars and other areas. Lawmakers are also concerned with continuing the state casino tax which was shut down in September of last year by the state Supreme Court. Legislature must come up with a way for gaming venues to continue to pay fees to local municipalities in order to continue to see money provided to the state.

We will have to watch and see if Sessions decides to change the DOJ opinion and what it will truly mean for the online gaming industry of the United States if a change comes to pass.