New Online Gambling Bill for Pennsylvania

A new attempt at online gaming regulation in the state of Pennsylvania is underway, however what was initially thought to be a complete Pennsylvania online gambling bill, in fact, turns out to be a poker only bill. Bill HB649 has been presented to the house by Rep John. D Payne and although the term 'internet gaming' was used consistently before the bill was presented, a closer read shows that it does not include online casino gaming and only poker.

Last year we saw a similar bill introduced by Senator Edwin Erickson and Senator Bob Mensch and while that bill featured a clear bad actor clause, the 2015 bill does a roundabout way. In fact the terminology used instead of a straight bad actor clause is open to a little interpretation and states that applicants for a license will be judged by, "prior activities, reputation, habits and associations which may create or enhance the dangers of unsuitable, unfair or illegal practices, methods and activities in the conduct of interactive gaming."

The bill is similar to almost all others we've previously seen in that it pushes the issue of consumer protection, along with the tax revenue stream that could benefit the state, and without wanting to sound too cynical, neither of those things have really made heads turn in previous attempts. Payne argue that while millions of American citizens play online poker and casino games regularly, that there is consumer protection or regulatory body in place for them, and that the state is missing out on a huge amount of tax revenue. Stating that Pennsylvania is looking at a "projected $2 billion budget shortfall," and that, "I think it's important that we consider all responsible options to boost revenue before we consider asking our taxpayers for more money to fill that deficit," Payne argued and suggested that $120 million could be generated in the first year of online poker in Pennsylvania.

There are however a few issues with numbers of that size, and it has to be remembered that in the first year of regulated New Jersey online gambling, poker made under $30 million, and in no way did it ever look like getting near the numbers that were thrown around during the regulation build up. Tax revenue is always the big sell when presenting online poker and casino bills in the US, however real evidence, and not research and studies, so far points to the fact that online gaming will not provide the revenue streams that are expected of it.