Pennsylvania is coming closer to legalizing online poker as a hearing on online gaming was held recently. In addition, the draft of a new Internet poker bill is being prepared and will be introduced later in June.
The Pennsylvania Senate Community, Economic, and Recreational Development Committee held a hearing on online gambling recently. The focus was on the present condition of the state’s gambling industry, which occupies the second rank in the US. There were discussions on a study on gambling recently commissioned by the state’s officials, which showed that online gaming can generate plenty of revenue for the state without cannibalizing the state’s existing brick-and-mortar casinos.
The study titled “The Current Condition and Future Viability of Casino Gaming in Pennsylvania” was published in May. According to the researchers, legalized online poker could generate $129 million in annual revenues for the state. In addition, the study warned that the state’s brick-and-mortar casinos may not be able to generate revenue in future because of gambling expansion in states such as New Jersey, New York, Maryland, and Ohio. The study further suggested that the state can offset these losses by legalizing and regulated online poker.
Recently, Senator Edwin Erickson announced his intention to suggest the legalization of online poker in assembly. In an interview with eGR, he said: “In the next few weeks, I intend to introduce Senate Bill 1386, legislation that would authorize interactive gaming in the form of online poker.”
Representative Tina Davis had introduced the idea of legalizing online gambling last year, but her political colleagues did not consider it necessary at that time. But now Pennsylvania lawmakers have realized the importance of online poker legalization, especially as the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee has released its new study.
Erickson’s bill proposes to legalize only poker and suggests a 14 percent tax rate along with a licensing fee of $5 million on online poker operators. There is a bad actor clause too as online poker operators who continued to accept US players after the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. If the bill is passed, Pennsylvania can get the profits currently enjoyed by offshore online poker rooms.
Speaking on the issue, Erickson said that several residents are currently playing at unregulated online poker rooms. “Establishing a strong regulatory framework under the Gaming Control Board will assist in shutting down these illegal sites and enhance consumer protection for our gaming residents”.