Pennsylvania Stamp

Anti Online Gambling Bill Introduced in Pennsylvania

An anti-online gambling bill has been re-introduced in Pennsylvania, standing in stark contrast to a pair of pro-regulation measures that have garnered significant industry attention both within and outside the Keystone State.

PA State Rep. Thomas P. Murt is the primary sponsor of the new legislation, House Bill 1013, which would seek to bar the state from participating in all online-related gambling activities.  The bill itself is not new, however.  Instead, it’s a reintroduction of last year’s HB 1404 measure introduced by former State Rep. Paul Clymer.

pennsylvania-stampWhether or not Murt, a Republican from the affluent North Philadelphia suburbs in eastern Pennsylvania, has received similar corporate backing as Rep. Clymer did in 2014 is not known.  Clymer’s 2014 bill was publicly and directed supported by the anti-online gambling efforts of Las Vegas Sands Corporation and its politically active billionaire CEO, Sheldon Adelson.

The only Sands-owned casino in the US outside of Nevada is in northeast Pennsylvania, within easy driving distance of the constituents in Rep. Murt’s district.  Sands Bethlehem Casino, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, offers Adelson and LV Sands a corporate toehold from which to conduct lobbying efforts counterproductive to US-based online gambling growth.

Despite the efforts of Adelson and state representatives such as Clymer and Murt, Pennsylvania has emerged as the US state most likely to become the next to formally regulate online gambling.  Three US states — Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware — already regulate that activity.  Pennsylvania has leaped past the US’s most populous state in that regard, California, where fierce in-fighting between the state’s tribal factions has stalled many bills over the past eight years.

Like California, however, Pennsylvania now has multiple bills on the topic of online gambling now before its legislature for consideration.  Rep. John Payne’s HB 140 continues to be debated within the PA House’s Gaming Oversight Committee, and was the topic of a well-received and productive hearing earlier this month.  Rep. Tina Davis has also introduced a pro-legislative bill, HB 920, which differs from the Payne bill in several specifics.

Murt’s reintroduced anti-gambling measure joins the Payne and Davis bills in being slotted to the state’s Gaming Oversight Committee, the first stop for all such legislation in Pennsylvania.

Rep. Murt had previously announced his intent to reintroduce the Clymer bill, so its reemergence is little surprise.  Wrote Murt, in a brief memo to his House colleagues last December, “I plan to reintroduce former Rep. Paul Clymer’s legislation that will ban internet gambling in PA.”

Murt’s HB 1013 was also backed by seven co-sponsors upon its introduction last week.  Already on record as supporting the bill are Reps. Matthew E. Baker (Republican-68th District), Gary Day (R-187th), Rob W. Kauffman (R-89th), John A. Lawrence (R-13th), Stephen McCarter (Democrat-154th), Will Tallman (R-193rd), and David H. Zimmerman (R-99th).  The co-sponsors are all from eastern Pennsylvania districts that are either reasonably close to the Sands Bethelem casino or come from very conservative areas, such as Pennsylvania’s Amish region in Lancaster County, southwest of Philly.

Lawrence, Baker, Kauffman and Tallman also served as co-sponsors of Clymer’s 2014 measure.  All told, the 2014 effort maxed out with nine co-sponsors, in addition to Clymer.

The new HB 1013 bill is very brief in its original form, seeking to add a single prohibition-centered paragraph to the heart of Pennsylvania’s gambling statutes.  That paragraph, under the topic of “general powers”:

(7) The board shall not promulgate rules and regulations allowing any form of Internet gambling.

A second section of HB 1013 would also introduce criminal misdemeanor violations and fines for all people who would take part in online gambling from Pensylvania, including the players themselves.

That section:

(d.1) Internet gambling.–No individual or entity shall solicit, invite, collect or accept cash or any other form of currency through the Internet for the purposes of wagering or betting. No individual or entity shall organize, or cause to be organized, any type of gambling event that is held over the Internet.

(e) Penalty.–

(1) Any person who fails to provide records as provided in subsection (d) commits a summary offense.

(2) A first offense under subsection (d.1) shall be considered a first offense punishable by a fine of not more than $300.

(3) A second offense under subsection (d.1) shall be considered a summary offense punishable by a fine of not more than $600 and a term of imprisonment not to exceed three days.

(4) A third or subsequent offense under subsection (d.1) shall be considered a third degree misdemeanor.

It is unknown if Murt’s HB 1013 will be able to generate more than the narrow support shown for Clymer’s 2014 effort.  Though submitted to the House Gaming Oversight Committee, the Murt bill has not been scheduled for either a hearing or a vote at this time.


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