Davis Offers Details on PA Online Gaming Bill

Davis Offers Details on PA Online Gaming Bill

Rep. Tina DavisSince the start of the year, Pennsylvania state representative Tina Davis (D-Bucks) reportedly has been planning to introduce a bill to authorize and regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania. First Davis’ bill was scheduled to be introduced in late January, then mid-February, then early March.

While there’s still no legislation pending in the state legislature (although Davis may have pulled a pump-fake this week), Davis went on Pennsylvania’s equivalent of C-SPAN Tuesday night to talk up her yet-to-be-introduced bill.

Davis said her bill would restrict licenses to existing casinos and would require players to go into the casinos to register for online play. Interstate compacts are not currently on the table. She noted that the tax rate and licensing fees to which online operators would be subject are still being negotiated with various stakeholders but that an initial draft of the bill called for a $40 million(!) licensing fee.

“We know that’s coming down,” David deadpanned. One would hope so. By comparison, New Jersey’s licensing scheme calls for a $400,000 initial fee, a $250,000 annual upkeep fee, and a $250,000 renewal fee.

On a macro level, Davis did not appear very well-educated on internet gaming despite sponsoring this legislation and agreeing to an interview for which she obviously vetted the questions beforehand. She professed not to have any knowledge of the contents of the Delaware, Nevada or New Jersey online gaming laws. She claimed that there are only 27,000 online gamblers in Pennsylvania, a number that seems suspiciously low for a state of 12 million residents. She hasn’t solicited any feedback on the bill from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, the agency that would be tasked with regulatory oversight of online gaming.

Davis’ answer to a question about what interstate compacts are, and why her bill doesn’t allow for them, was the most cringe-worthy. She said:

“That actually is: at this point, we’re not going to compete with New Jersey or Delaware. We’re a bigger state. We have a lot of people. Somebody like Delaware would need, since they’re such a small state, would rather be able to have Nevada residents and Delaware residents gambling. If I explained that correctly.”

Well, she gets an “A” for effort, anyway.

Davis’ inability to get the details right for a prepared interview is troubling. Although she claims that “a lot” of her fellow representatives are interested in the bill, she acknowledged that “a few” are concerned about continuing to expand gambling in the state. One of them, Republican Paul Clymer, is sponsoring his own bill to prohibit online gambling.

Clymer is a long-time opponent of gambling in a very rank-and-file Republican way, citing concerns about addiction and underage gambling. The only gambling measures he tends to support are those which require increased regulatory oversight and transparency of casinos. For example, in 2009, he pushed for the issuance of monthly win-loss statements from casinos to gamblers. Previously, such statements were issued annually.

The battle lines are being drawn in Pennsylvania. Although it’s too early to tell who’s going to win, Davis did mention that a companion bill is being prepared in the state Senate by a Senator she did not name. When might the online gambling world see these bills?

“We will be introducing them in the next two weeks.”

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