New PA Online Gambling Bill Would Punish Internet Betting

A new bill introduced in the state of Pennsylvania seeks to establish punishments for playing at online poker and casino web sites.

While it is currently illegal to gamble online in the Keystone State, the violation carries no penalty, this according to Philly.com.

The site reported that a Republican State Representative, Mario Scavello, would like to see that change.

New bill supports penalizing iGaming play

Scavello’s argument for why those who place wagers over the Internet in Pennsylvania ought to be punished hews closely to the moral case that has been put forward by other anti-online gambling factions, among them the Sheldon Adelson’s prominent Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which is working at both the state and federal level to halt the spread of regulated Internet wagering in the United States.

“Here again, online gambling is best described as the Wild West. Online, there’s no one around to keep an eye on someone who doesn’t know when to stop. I believe that if you hit people in their wallets, we can start to crack down on the lawbreakers,” Representative Scavello was quoted as saying.

Scavello is proposing a punishment scheme that would see first time offenders paying a $300 fine with the possibility of a 90-day stay in jail. For second time offenders, misdemeanor charges would be levied that could result in as much as a year in jail as well as a $2500 fine.

Proponents of regulation offer firm counterpoint

Scavello has trotted out the usual laundry list of concerns, noting correctly that Pennsylvanians are already accessing real money online poker and other types of wagering sites.

The GOP lawmaker has expressed worries about access by underage players and problem gamblers, the two most oft-cited issues mentioned in the anti-online gambling conversation.

Proponents of regulated Internet-based wagering in the U.S. have effectively debunked that argument many times in the past. While it is true that Pennsylvanians and indeed Americans from all parts of the country have access to unregulated gambling sites, in the event of regulation safeguards are established to combat the “sky is falling” scenario that Representative Scavello, Sheldon Adelson, and their allies are forecasting.

Regulated marketplace offers checks, security measures

Three states now offer legalized online betting to residents and visitors. In Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, all of which launched some form of regulated Internet wagering web sites last year, procedures are in place to verify that players are of the legal gambling age and are physically located within the states when logging onto the sites.

The true danger, advocates of the regulation of Internet betting argue, is allowing the unregulated industry to operate in what amounts to a legal grey area, in which offshore operators conduct U.S.-facing games with little or no oversight, meaning that customer protections against fraud, financial impropriety, and the like, are virtually non-existent.

In the regulated marketplace, customer security is a priority, as operators are subject to answer to state regulators, making for far greater transparency – and player safety – within the industry.

Pennsylvania on the “short list”

Despite Representative Scavello’s legislation, Pennsylvania is actually among the states predicted to move toward rather than away from regulating online gambling this year.

Pennsylvania, which in recent years has established itself as a thriving land-based casino market, has floated the idea of permitting access to real money wagering sites in the past, though as yet legislation has not gained traction there.

Surely the state has its eyes on near neighbor New Jersey, where online betting kicked off just shy of three months ago and has proven to be a viable, if not enormous, market. Should Pennsylvania opt to pass online betting legislation, it would be the largest state thus far to do so.

With its nearly 13 million people, Pennsylvania is a good deal more populated than New Jersey, which with its 9 million residents is the largest existing legal iGaming market in the United States.

About Cliff Spiller

Cliff Spiller has been an online writer for 14 years. He worked for Small World Marketing for a decade, where he covered topics like gaming, sports, movies, and how-to guides. Since 2014, he has blogged about US and international gambling news on BestOnlineCasinos.com, USPokerSites.com, and LegalUSPokerSites.com

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