Online Gambling Issue May Arise in PA Budget Talks
If you were to ask anyone who closely monitors the nascent U.S. online gambling market which states are most likely to follow in the footsteps of Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey in legalizing access to Internet betting, the state of Pennsylvania would certainly appear on – if not top – any such list.
The matter of regulating online wagering in Pennsylvania may soon come up in a serious way.
Philly.com reported this week that the topic of the legalization of online gambling is likely to be on legislators’ docket in the coming months, as lawmakers work to pass a budget in an economic climate that is not exactly rosy for cash-strapped Pennsylvania.
Large deficit for the coming fiscal year
Like many states, Pennsylvania is casting about for a way to fill a hole looming in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which kicks off on July 1.
The Keystone State is said to be facing a shortfall of about $1.2 billion.
Pennsylvania, a large state with a large population to match, has found success with its land-based casino business. New casino properties in Philadelphia, notably the SugarHouse Casino, which opened in Philly’s Fishtown neighborhood back in 2010, have managed to prove a draw for gamblers who in the past might have gone to Atlantic City, a fact that has put a major hurt on the New Jersey casino industry and was cited as a reason for last year’s passage of iGaming regulation in the Garden State.
By expanding online access to the state’s lottery and perhaps by also beginning to offer access to real money online poker and casino web sites to Pennsylvania residents and visitors to the state, hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue could potentially be generated.
Should Pennsylvania decide to regulate online betting, it would become the largest such market in the nation. New Jersey is currently the industry leader, with a population of around 9 million people. The population of near-neighbor Pennsylvania is just under 13 million.
Legislature commissioned study due back this spring
The Pennsylvania State Senate passed a resolution last month, known as SR273, that provides for a study to determine what kind of impact the introduction of Internet-based wagering would have on the state.
The results of that investigation are slated to come back on May 1, a date that incidentally lines up with the timeframe in which state lawmakers will debating the budget for the upcoming year.
Whether or not online gambling comes to pass remains to be seen, and the idea certainly has its detractors.
“We have to ask ourselves, what are we about as a state? Do we want to strengthen families, make them more whole? Or do we want to see them deteriorate, and [become] dysfunctional? Because that is what this issue is about,” Republican Pennsylvania Representative Paul Clymer was quoted as saying.
Also opposing the regulation of online gambling in Pennsylvania is the state’s brick and mortar casino business, which has taken the position that allowing bettors to access real money online poker sites and other forms of Internet betting from the comfort of their sofas would only serve to weaken the state’s land-based casino industry.
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