Just a few months ago, as Pennsylvania was receiving its first proposal of the new legislative session aimed at authorizing legal online poker and casino games, the subject drew little fanfare from the iGaming community. Another bill, another session, another long wait with little hope for success – that was the general consensus. But heads are quickly turning in the Keystone State now that a fifth bill to legalize internet poker is on its way.
It’s not the number of bills on the table that is giving hopeful players so much hope, but rather the abundance of support from state legislators that so many individual efforts denotes. There are already 33 co-sponsors (28 originals) across three House Bills already in circulation, with two Senate Bills that include legal online poker legislation soon to hit the table.
On Wednesday, Pennsylvania State Senators Kim Ward, Robert Tomlinson, Elder Vogel and Joseph Scarnati published a memoranda to gain support for an upcoming bill to provide a framework for legal online poker and casino gaming. Making this new bill different from any of the current legislation, it would also allow PA casinos to serve alcoholic beverages 24/7, among other things.
The impending Senate Bill is geared towards making the following modifications to PA state law:
- Waive membership fees for patrons of Resort Casinos in lieu of a one-time fee to be paid by relative Category 3 slot machine licensees.
- Casinos that are open 24/7 would be permitted to apply for a liquor license that allows them to serve alcohol during all hours of operation.
- Licensed Racinos and Standalone Casinos can pay a per-location fee to place a limited number of slot machines in ancillary locations throughout the casino.
- Reduce the number of days Racinos are required to hold live races.
- Grant PA Casinos where slots machines and table games are presented to offer internet gaming to players in Pennsylvania.
The full text of the last section, relating to the provision of legal online poker and casino gambling, reads:
“Existing PA casinos that offer slot machine and table games would be eligible to offer Internet gaming to individual patrons that have registered and established an Internet gaming account and are physically present in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania while playing online. In addition, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs would be required to develop expanded compulsive and problem gambling programs specifically related to Internet gaming.”
Senators Ward, Tomlinson, Vogel and Scarnati are encouraging fellow members of the Senate to lend their co-sponsorship to the upcoming bill.
“These enhancements and reforms are reflective of the challenges faced both in establishing and maintaining the viability of the PA gaming industry in an increasingly competitive environment,” reads the memoranda. “It is imperative that we avoid the status quo and ensure PA casinos have the tools necessary to continue to thrive and guarantee the job security of the many men and women employed by the PA gaming industry.”
The legal online poker bill’s sponsors wrote, “This proposed legislation is meant to ensure a healthy and vibrant business atmosphere for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry, while maximizing gaming revenue and the positive economic impact of gaming in the Commonwealth.”
Current Legislation for Legal Online Poker in Pennsylvania
|HB 649||Rep. John Payne
Gaming Oversight, Chair
|Feb 26, 2015||An Act…providing for authorized interactive gaming and for duties of Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and Department of Health; and imposing an interactive gaming tax and prescribing penalties.|
|HB 695||Rep. Nick Miccarelli||Mar 3, 2015||An Act…providing for authorized interactive gaming and for duties of Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and Department of Health; imposing an interactive gaming tax; and prescribing penalties.|
|HB 920||Rep. Tina Davis
Gaming Oversight, Democratic Secretary
|Apr 6, 2015||An Act…providing for definitions, in Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board…for Category 3 slot machine license, for supplier licenses and for manufacturer licenses; providing for Internet gaming;…providing for responsibility and authority of the Department of Revenue, for wagering on credit, for compulsive and problem gambling program, for financial and employment interest, for regulation requiring exclusion or ejection of certain persons, for repeat offenders excludable from licensed gaming facility, for list of persons self excluded from gaming activities, for investigations and enforcement and for prohibited acts and penalties…|
|N/A||Sen. Sean Wiley||“Near future”||“…comprehensive legislation to move the commonwealth’s gaming industry forward.” Includes legal online poker / casino framework. See full Memoranda here.|
|N/A||Senators Ward, Tomlinson, Vogel, Scarnati||“Near future”||“…Gaming Enhancements and Reforms (i.e., Category 3 Slot Machine License Membership Fee, Casino Liquor License, Nonprimary & Auxiliary Locations, Racing Days Reduction and Internet Gaming)”. See full Memoranda here.|