New PPA State Director Discusses Online Gambling Legislation in Pennsylvania
Judah Rosenstein is the new State Director for the Pennsylvania chapter of the Poker Players Alliance. Mr. Rosenstein takes over the Pennsylvania PPA at a time when online gaming appeared to have little chance of passing this year. The state budget crisis has put iGaming back on the table, though it still facing a number of obstacles to legalization.
Mr. Rosenstein recently gave an interview to discuss the gaming bills which would legalize online casinos and poker sites in the state: HB 649 by John Payne and SB 900 by Kim Ward. He also discussed the future of online gambling in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
On Resistance to Gambling
When asked about resistance to gambling expansion in his state, the new state director gave his explanation for why such resistance continues. Rosenstein said, “I recognized early on that opposition to the legalization of online poker had little to do with reason or empirical evidence, and was instead grounded in greed and lingering societal misconceptions about the ‘scourge’ of problem gambling.”
The original proposals for online gambling in the state were put forward by Rep. Tina Davis in 2013. That legislation never found support in the legislature and was criticized for a number of oversights. The PPA’s representative explained why the current batch of proposals are more streamlined then Rep. Davis’s bill.
He said, “Since that first piece of legislation was introduced, legislators have had the advantage of seeing how online gambling operates in other states, as well as newer studies focused specifically on its safety and financial impact….The current legislation has more realistic provisions regarding who should be permitted to operate the sites, how much they should pay for a license, how players will register and at what rate they should be taxed.”
In discussing the current legislation, the state director said House Bill 649 is closer to a vote than Senate Bill 900. He added that an “up” vote in the Pennsylvania House likely would spur the Pennsylvania Senate to discuss the same bill. Thus, it appears John Payne’s proposal is the likely form of online gambling people will see in the state.
Rosenstein said, “The PA House Gaming Oversight Committee is expected to vote very soon on their version of Internet gaming legislation, HB649. In doing so, the House would lay the groundwork for iGaming to be included in the ongoing budget negotiations.”
When asked whether the Democrats or Republicans were lining up to support the bill, the PPA’s Pennsylvania director said there was bipartisan support, along with bipartisan opposition. That is usually not the case on hot-button issues, but gambling is a little different than most political issues.
Judah Rosenstein added, “Support and opposition for online gaming, and any individual legislator movement on the issue, has seemingly been motivated by issues other than party affiliation. There are proponents on both sides of the aisle, which is why passage of Internet gaming legislation is increasingly being talked about as a viable option to help solve the current budget impasse.”
Gambling bills are considered “votes of conscience” in most areas of the United States. What that means is the party whips do not require strict-party votes on such issues. They realize such votes have to be defended with constituents back home, while the lawmaker often has personal values which require he or she to vote in one way. Also, neither party makes gambling part of the plank, so the party does not rise or fall based on a gaming vote.
Letter to the Editor
While reading about Judah Rosenstein, I found him commenting on Triblive about a letter to the editor. The PPA state director’s comments were polite to a letter writer, despite their overstating their case. The writer claimed “agriculture and horse racing” bring in billions of dollars of revenue to the state each year. That same writer said online gambling would hurt the farmers of the state, because online gambling would take 20% to 30% of the revenues out of the racetracks.
That includes a number of fallacies. The biggest mistake is lumping horse racing in with agriculture. Farming is a huge part of the Pennsylvania economy, while racetrack betting is a small amount. Online gambling might be a competitor of land-based racetrack betting, but that hardly affects Pennsylvania’s agriculture sector. To indicate online gambling somehow competes with agriculture is disingenuous.
Another reason most experts do not see a zero-sum game between online gaming sites and brick-and-mortar betting operations is the matter of licensing. In the three other states which have legal and licensed gaming, only licensed land-based operations can have online casinos and poker sites. Thus, any Pennsylvania gaming law likely would give the state’s racinos the ability to launch online gaming portals. So long as racetracks are included among the gaming venues allowed to have such sites, the relationship should be synergistic and not antagonistic.
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