Pennsylvania Legislators to Delve into iGaming Issue
Pennsylvania – the nation’s second-largest gambling market – has long been on the short list of states that are predicted to move to regulate online betting.
The state is inching ever closer to legalized Internet betting becoming a reality, with the passage this week in the Pennsylvania State Senate of a resolution calling for a study to determine whether or not the Keystone State ought to follow in the steps of the three other states that have already enacted legislation to allow for some type of online betting – Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.
Types of games to be offered as yet undetermined
While it remains to be seen what types of games will be on offer in Pennsylvania if legislation is introduced and passed, the online wagering study is expected to be completed sometime next May.
The measure has the full support of Republican State Senator Joe Scarnati, who pointed out that Pennsylvanians needn’t look too far for inspiration to regulate real money online betting, with near neighbor New Jersey still in the early days of its own successful iGaming launch.
Noting that Pennsylvania gaming revenue has essentially plateaued this year, Scarnati was quoted by news channel ABC 27 as saying, “With New Jersey doing internet gaming, and I believe the main intent was to get customers back from Pennsylvania, we need to be a bit more aware of where we want to head with gaming. And what we want to do is keep those customers.”
“If your revenues are not growing, they are staying stagnant. You are losing,” Scarnati went on.
Competition among states for gambling revenue cited as motivator
It should be noted that Pennsylvania, which only cleared the way for land-based casino gambling nine years ago, was a major motivating factor for New Jersey’s newly re-elected Republican Governor Chris Christie’s support of the state’s iGaming legislation. He signed the bill into law last February, in large part to aid Atlantic City’s long-struggling land-based casino industry, which is legally tied to the Garden State’s Internet gambling business.
Competition from neighboring states, primarily Pennsylvania, has put a major hurt on Atlantic City revenue, and for months New Jersey’s nascent online betting industry has been predicted to be a savior for the city’s flagging gambling economy.
A constitutional amendment passed last month in New York that will allow for the eventual construction of seven new land-based casino properties will likely only serve to make competition for gamblers even more fierce in the region, a fact that also has Pennsylvania lawmakers and its casino industry on edge.
Effect of Adelson presence unknown
While there might be support in the legislature in Pennsylvania for an iGaming bill, there is one influential – not to mention deep-pocketed – online betting opponent who is already poised to act against regulation in the state.
That man is Sheldon Adelson, chairman of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, which operates the Bethlehem Sands casino. In recent weeks, Adelson has renewed his quest to do away with what he calls the “toxin” that is online wagering, and surely if the issue comes to the forefront in Pennsylvania, Adelson will jump into the fray.
Adelson has not only assembled a team of former legislators to work against iGaming regulation at the federal level, but has also said that he plans to employ lobbyists to help stem the spread of online gambling at the state level.
In the last few months, Adelson has also been the author of several op-ed pieces denouncing Internet betting that have done little for his popularity in the gambling community, with many calling him a hypocrite for attempting to draw a distinction between land-based casino gambling, from which he has grown wealthy and famous, and online gambling.
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