Online Gaming Bill Introduced in Pennsylvania

Online Gaming Bill Introduced in Pennsylvania

Rep. Tina Davis

Rep. Tina Davis (D-Bucks)

Roughly three months after she first said it would be introduced in “a few weeks”, Rep. Tina Davis (D-Bucks) finally introduced her online gaming bill in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last Friday. The bill would provide for the legalization, regulation and taxation of all forms of internet gaming, including online poker.

Davis’ bill would provide casino gaming licensees to apply for “internet gaming certificates” that would be valid for three years. Licensees would be subject to a one-time licensing fee of $5,000,000 and renewal fees of $500,000.

The bill does not allow players from outside Pennsylvania (say, in neighboring states of New York, New Jersey, Ohio or Maryland) to establish online gaming accounts with Pennsylvania licensees. As opposed to states like Nevada, which allows players to play online poker if they’re physically present within Nevada, whether or not they’re residents of the state, the Pennsylvania bill requires that Pennsylvania online gaming account holders must be residents and that they must go to a Pennsylvania casino in order to set up their accounts.

Obviously the residency requirement won’t be an issue for players from states like New Jersey if Pennsylvania enters into an interstate compact with New Jersey – which the bill does allow, contrary to Davis’ own remarks last month that her bill would not provide for compacts. But players who live in neighboring states that haven’t yet authorized online gaming won’t be able to pop across the state line in order to play a few hands of poker.

Pennsylvania, in keeping with its aggressive taxation of brick-and-mortar gaming facilities, has set the tax rate applicable to internet gaming at 28% of gross gaming revenues.

The bill has been referred to the House’s 25-member Gaming Oversight committee. Davis is a member of that committee but her Democratic party is in the minority. Republicans hold a comfortable 15-10 committee majority.

Davis did not make a compelling case for online gaming in Pennsylvania when she appeared on Pennsylvania’s equivalent of C-SPAN to talk up the bill last month. She stated at that time that she hadn’t solicited any feedback on her bill from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and professed no knowledge of the contents of online gaming laws in Nevada, Delaware or New Jersey.

Her effort will be complicated by a Republican colleague, Paul Clymer, who also sits on the Gaming Oversight Committee. In late February, he announced his intention to introduce legislation banning online gaming in Pennsylvania, stating, “Many of us recognize the serious problem of gambling addiction and the related social problems that would occur if internet gambling were legalized.”

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