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:
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:
If these two issues are resolved the bill shouldn’t face very much opposition.
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.
The second hearing isn’t official yet, but industry sources expect an online gambling hearing in Michigan on Wednesday, March 8.
BREAKING: Just got word the Michigan Senate Regulatory Reform Committee will have a hearing/vote on new iGaming bills next week.-jp #GoGoGo
— Poker Alliance (@ppapoker) March 1, 2017
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.
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.
It will be interesting to see what questions still remain a year later, and what – if any – compromises and partnerships have been forged.