Public Hearing Will Review States With DFS, Online Gambling Regulation

PA House Committee To Get Ball Rolling In What Is A Critical Period For Online Gambling And Daily Fantasy Sports

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A key Pennsylvania committee will hold a hearing next week on online gambling and daily fantasy sports, in what is a crucial period for legislation in the Keystone State.

What the online gambling hearing is about

The public hearing will be in the House Gaming Oversight Committee on Tuesday, September 27, at 9 a.m. The topic? A “review of states which currently have fantasy sports and/or I-Gaming,” according to the committee’s website.

The online gambling part of that review will not have changed at all since the last time the PA legislature considered it. The list remains short, with just Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware having regulated online poker and/or gambling. All three have had it since 2013.

The DFS side of things, however, has changed dramatically in the past year. In 2016, eight states have formally legalized and regulated the DFS industry:

The DFS side of the equation would seem likely to be more of the focus of the hearing. It’s noteworthy, of course, that most major DFS operators, including DraftKings and FanDuel, serve the PA market already, in an unregulated fashion.

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Why now for the online gambling / DFS hearing?

The House has already passed a bill that included online gambling. This summer, the legislature and the governor agreed to a budget that would include $100 million in revenue from a gambling expansion package, with online gambling generating most of that money.

So why is The House holding a hearing, and not the Senate?

The statehouse has been in recess for much of the summer, and it is up to the Senate to act on the gambling expansion and online gambling. However, it has a very short window to do so this fall, with just nine days in its active calendar. The Senate is back in session starting on Monday.

The timing of the hearing would seem to point to an effort by the House to light a fire under the Senate on the issue. Consider:

Will we see action on DFS and online gambling in 2016?

When the budget was slated to be funded with online gambling revenue, it looked like almost a certainty that regulation was coming to PA.

But, like anything in government and politics, promises are only about as good as the paper they are written on. It’s not clear that the Senate has made or will make any progress toward a final gambling bill.

That makes the possibility of the issue getting punted to 2017 a very real one. And if that happens, all bets might be off.

After the elections, finding that extra $100 million from a new tax, unrelated to gambling, could be more palatable than it was prior to the elections.

It seems like the House is doing its best to get the upper house to take action now. Whether it has the ability to generate momentum in that body remains unknown.

- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner. He has played poker recreationally for his entire adult life and has written about poker since 2008.
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