This fall both Delaware and New Jersey will join Nevada in legalizing online gambling; now there are signs that Pennsylvania may become another member of that group. Legalized gambling at the state level is now possible due to the Department of Justice removing the Wire Act, a law that was used to prosecute online gambling providers. Nevada only allows online poker; Delaware and New Jersey will allow a full slate of gambling options.
Some believe that online gaming would be helpful to new out-of-state casinos that have opened recently. Table revenues have dipped 31% for Presque Isle Downs and Casino; most of that loss is attributed to the opening of the Horseshoe Cleveland Casino. Legalized online gaming would allow Pennsylvania casinos to attempt to make up that revenue with expanded options to gamblers.
Others are worried that online gaming will cut into the profits of Pennsylvania casinos when online only ventures open in the state. Some are also concerned that it will lessen the revenue of the Pennsylvania Lottery which funds programs for seniors in the state, while others worry about the availability of gambling to minors.
Because of these conflicting viewpoints, Pennsylvania is taking the slow route to legalized online gaming. Many, including Pennsylvania, are waiting to see what occurs in Delaware and to a greater extent New Jersey, which has a large population as well as a full slate of games to choose from at its inception. Kevin O’Toole of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board stated, “We’re basically hoping to learn more about how other states, jurisdictions, and even some international jurisdictions - how they would approach internet gambling…or those jurisdictions that do have legislation that has passed”.
Although legalized online gaming has been put on hold, new gambling laws have passed recently. The Pennsylvania State Appropriations Committee has passed legislation to allow games of chance, including raffles and drawings to take place in establishments such as bars and taverns; the state will receive 60% of the proceeds. It is estimated that this could raise $60 million to in excess of $200 million for the state; the state hasn’t decided on how to appropriate those funds.
It is believed that the Pennsylvania Legislature will sit on this issue for an indefinite amount of time. “It may be that they will wait and see long enough to see how New Jersey makes it work and how much revenue can be produced to see if there is going to be any damage done by [internet gaming] to the brick-and-motor casino industry”, said William H. Ryan Jr., chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Although they are moving slowly toward online gaming, they are considering it. Legalized gambling was to begin in Delaware by the end of October and New Jersey starts their online gaming November 26th. If the results in these states are positive, Pennsylvania could become the next state to legalize online gambling.