Newly Introduced Pennsylvania Bill Legalizes Online Poker, And Maybe Everything Else

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State Sen. Edwin Erickson has formally introduced his bill to regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania.

Erickson first announced his plans to introduce such a bill in late May.

Full bill text here.

Bill appears to allows for poker and more

The original draft of Sen. Erickson’s bill contained a key line that limited the games operators could offer online:

“Authorized game.” Any interactive game approved by the board pursuant to this chapter. The board only may approve poker games pursuant to this chapter.

Emphasis mine. In the version as introduced, the bolded line is gone:

“Authorized game.” Any interactive game approved by the board pursuant to this chapter.

The bill as introduced makes several references to poker in the introduction. But I cannot find any language in the bill that specifically restricts online activity to poker.

Key points of the new Pennsylvania online gambling bill

  • Wide-ranging bad actor / tainted assets provision.
  • Substantial limitations on skins.
  • Tax rate is 14% and license fee is $5mm.
  • The bill expressly contemplates interstate online poker agreements.
  • There are no player penalties for play on unlicensed online poker or casino sites.

Read the full bill text.

Sen. Erickson is up for re-election this year, but has announced that he will not be running.

Would the Amaya purchase of PokerStars solve bad actor concerns?

Not as I read the bill. A “presumption of unsuitability” (13B08) contains the following language:

Purchased or acquired, directly or indirectly, in whole or in significant part, a third party described in paragraph (1) or will use that third party or a covered asset in connection with interactive gaming.

What’s next?

The bill has moved to the Senate Committee on Community, Economic & Recreational Development, chaired by Sen. Kim Ward.

There’s still technically time to work online poker into the budget process, but with the deadline looming at month’s end, chances for that path grow shorter by the day. Good news on that front: Gov. Tom Corbett indicated today that he’d be comfortable with a late budget.

Once that’s wrapped up, lawmakers head home for several weeks before returning for a brief fall session starting in mid-September.

Will online gambling regulation pass in Pennsylvania?

The consensus opinion is that Pennsylvania is one of the most likely states to legalize and regulate some form of online gambling.

There are powerful supporters – commercial and political – lined up behind online gambling. And momentum has been building organically for several months at this point.

On the other side sits well-financed opposition from Las Vegas Sands, a foggy legislative path through the House and an uncertain fate for any bill that does reach Gov. Corbett’s desk.

- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.
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