Two Hearings On Tap This Week For iGaming

Pennsylvania And Michigan Expected To Hold Online Gambling Hearings This Week

This article may be outdated. Get the latest news on Michigan here.

UPDATE 3/6 12:27 p.m. PST: Michigan’s online gambling hearing is now confirmed for March 8 at 1:00 p.m. EST.

Online gambling bills have been introduced in six states in the opening months of 2017:

  1. Pennsylvania
  2. New York
  3. Michigan
  4. Massachusetts
  5. California
  6. New Hampshire

In two of those states online gambling hearings have been tentatively scheduled to be held this week: Pennsylvania and Michigan.

What to expect at the Pennsylvania hearing

The first hearing will take place in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, March 7 at 2 PM EST, a joint affair involving the House Gaming Oversight Committee and the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee.

Sources expect the hearing to follow a similar format to what we’ve grown accustomed to, with some invited witnesses offering different information and points of view – including a representative for the Sheldon Adelson-backed Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, or CSIG for short.

But, as Representative Rosita Youngblood told Online Poker Report, witness testimony isn’t really needed.

“Over the last two years, the House, in a strong bipartisan manner, focused heavily on gaining as much information and facts on the pros and cons of iGaming as possible,” Youngblood said. “And that research showed that regulating iGaming would have no ill-effect on casinos, but in fact would enhance their operations.”

Simply put, Pennsylvania’s online gambling efforts are beyond the point of informational hearings.

More important will be the comments and questions coming from the legislators at the hearing. This is what we should be keeping an eye on as it will tell us a lot about where the state is at when it comes to online gambling legalization.

The hope is that the hearing is more of a formality than true hurdle as the two legislative bodies continue to work on the few remaining points of disagreement in their dueling gaming reform bills:

  1. Which gaming reforms should be included in the gaming reform bill with online gambling, daily fantasy sports and the local tax share fix?
  2. What tax rate should be imposed on online gambling operators? The House is calling for a 14 percent rate while the Senate is in the 20-25 percent range.

If these two issues are resolved the bill shouldn’t face very much opposition.

Upshot for Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has been working on online gambling legislation for several years and is the leading candidate to pass an online gaming legalization bill this year.

But, as online gambling supporters have learned repeatedly, close doesn’t always mean close enough.

If the hearing turns into a lawmaker-driven argument over the merits of online gambling, with multiple lawmakers expressing skepticism and whether or not regulation is even a good idea, we might be in for a tougher slog than thought.

Michigan hearing

The second hearing isn’t official yet, but industry sources expect an online gambling hearing in Michigan on Wednesday, March 8.

The hearing would take place in front of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee, where they are also expected to vote on that state’s newly introduced online gaming bill, S 203.

An affirmative vote (which seems likely considering six of the committee’s nine members are sponsors of the legislation), would send the bill to the full senate for consideration.

In 2016 this same committee held a hearing in May where a contingent from PokerStars testified. A month later the Regulatory Reform Committee somewhat quietly passed an amended version of the bill, but the bill was left to wither on the vine.

It’s unclear if the rumored hearing will be informational like the May 2016 hearing, or if it will be more like the second, with just a few minutes of talk followed by a vote.

Upshot for Michigan

Michigan jumped into the online gambling conversation last year when State Senator Mike Kowall introduced online gambling legislation and spoke very optimistically about its chances throughout the session.

The bill made some quick progress, raising the hopes of online gaming advocates, before the measure ultimately fizzled out.

It will be interesting to see what questions still remain a year later, and what – if any – compromises and partnerships have been forged.

- Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.
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