Pennsylvania took a major step toward regulation of online poker and casino games today with the formal introduction of SB 900.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Kim Ward and co-sponsored by Sen. Robert Tomlinson, Sen. Elder Vogel and Sen. Joseph Scarnati, effectively marks the entrance of the Pennsylvania Senate into the debate.
Ward and her co-sponsors are all credible, powerful voices on the issue of gaming in Pennsylvania and their buy-in is absolutely necessary if any effort to regulate online gambling is to bear fruit.
The effort in the Senate joins an ongoing attempt from Rep. John Payne in the House. Payne, the chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, is advancing HB 649.
Payne has been a vocal proponent of regulation.
Payne’s bill addresses online alone, while Ward’s effort is a broader package of casino reforms that includes online regulation.
SB 900 addresses online gambling under Chapter 13B (Internet Gaming).
Some of the critical components are outlined below. The sections requiring in-person registration and detailing tax rate are certain to be the most controversial elements:
We’ll get a sense of the industry’s reaction to (and consensus on) Ward’s bill tomorrow at a hearing in front of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.
While a number of bills regarding online gambling regulation are currently floating around Harrisburg, the general consensus remains that the budget process will ultimately serve as the path forward for regulation.
The deadline for Pennsylvania lawmakers to reach an accord on the state’s budget is the end of June, although there are procedural steps that could extend that deadline into July.
While online gambling regulation would do little in terms of generating tax revenue for the upcoming fiscal year, the licensing fees from regulated online gambling would be received within the year.
Those fees could total over $100mm for the state in bullish scenarios and closer to $50mm in bearish scenarios.
For an in-depth look at the broader revenue potential for regulated online gambling in pennsylvania, see this comprehensive report from OPR’s Robert DellaFave.