Internet Gambling Bill Introduced in Pennsylvania
A new, though not unexpected, online gambling bill has been introduced in the state of Pennsylvania. The text of the bill, known as House Bill 1235, has also been released to the public. The measure is sponsored by Pennsylvania State Representative Tina Davis (D-Bucks County).
Davis has been talking for months about a need to introduce Internet gambling to the state as a means of remaining competitive in the increasingly cutthroat United States gambling market, and said back in January that she would present a bill during the current legislative session.
Pennsylvania has already firmly established itself as a leader in the East Coast gambling industry, as it now holds the title of being the nation’s second-largest gambling market, bested only by Las Vegas. In 2012, revenue from Pennsylvania’s eleven land-based casinos grew to $3.2 billion, whereas Atlantic City 2012 revenue was at $3 billion, down from a record of $5.2 billion set back in 2006.
Should House Bill 1235 be passed, Pennsylvanians can expect to access various forms of online betting sites, including online poker rooms as well as traditional table games like blackjack, roulette, and so forth. Testing and regulation would be required for each specific game offered, according to the language of the bill.
In this draft of Davis’s bill, the licensing fee would also be reduced to $5 million from a previously reported cost of $16.7 million. The license would require renewal after a three year period, at the cost of $500,000. Land-based casinos already operating in the state will be given favorable treatment under the terms of House Bill 1235, with only companies presently licensed being able to apply.
So far, three states have passed similar laws clearing the way for online gambling – Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. In Nevada, only online poker will be permitted, whereas in the two other states there will be additional forms of betting allowed in addition to poker. In all three states, residents will have to be at least 21 years of age in order to participate and will also need to be physically present in the state when they log onto the sites. The same rules will apply in Pennsylvania, where the tax rate applied to such sites will be set at 28 percent of gross revenue.
As yet, no real money online gambling sites have gone live, however there has been speculation that online poker may be available to Nevadans as early as this summer, with betting sites rumored to be up and running in New Jersey this coming fall. Pennsylvania, which is located close to both Delaware and New Jersey, is certainly well-positioned to be a dominant force in the market should the measure be approved, as it enjoys a large population of over 12 million people.
Pennsylvania is feeling the pressure of competition from another neighbor as well, that being Ohio, where the recent opening of a new land-based casino in Cincinnati also has Indiana officials concerned about revenue loss.
According to Joseph Weinert, a New Jersey gambling consultant, “Just as Pennsylvania took from New Jersey, Ohio is going to take away from Pennsylvania. It’s an arms race, of sorts.”
As more states rush to open casinos, states with existing casinos look to increase their reach in order to preserve much-needed revenue, according to gambling board spokesman Richard Garvey who said, “The amount of casinos that have come online in the past few years really changed the face of East Coast gambling.”
As soon as it was introduced, House Bill 1235 was sent directly to Pennsylvania’s Gaming Oversight Committee. Representative Davis is a member of that committee.
Check back for updates about this story as well as developments related to online gambling legislation across the United States.
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