Another Gambling Reform Bill Introduced In PA; This Time In The Senate By Four Unexpected Sponsors

Senate Online Gambling Bill Surfaces Ahead Of Today’s Critical Hearing In Pennsylvania

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Ahead of today’s joint hearing to discuss online gambling and several other gaming reforms in the Keystone State, a group of Pennsylvania senators introduced companion legislation to the gaming reform bill introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives a month ago.

The bill was filed on March 6 and referred to the Senate Community, Economic And Recreational Development Committee, which will be part of today’s joint hearing along with the House Gaming Oversight Committee.

A look at the PA Senate Bill

The new Senate bill, SB 477, is a carbon copy of the nearly 200-page HB 392.

It seeks to:

  • Legalize and regulate online gambling.
  • Legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports.
  • Reinstate the local share tax for host and surrounding communities via an annual fee on certain slot license holders.
  • Authorize multi-state progressive slot machines.
  • Authorize the state to allow skill-based and hybrid slot machines.
  • Authorize tablet gaming at certain airports.
  • Eliminate the casino amenity requirement currently in place at Category 3 casinos in exchange for a one-time fee.

Online gambling taxes and licensing fees

SB 477 calls for the following fees and taxes:

  • A 14 percent tax on gross gaming revenue that goes to the state, and a further two percent tax on gross gaming revenue sent to local communities.
  • A one-time $8 million licensing fee for an interactive gaming license.
  • A one-time $2 million licensing fee for each interactive gaming operator (such as a platform provider).
  • Annual renewal fees are set at $250,000 for interactive gaming licensees and $100,000 for interactive gaming operators.

Who introduced the new bill?

SB 477 was introduced by four Pennsylvania state senators:

  • Sen. Thomas Killion [R] – primary sponsor
  • Sen. Guy Reschenthaler [R]
  • Sen. Camera Bartolotta [R]
  • Sen. Patrick Stefano [R]

Interestingly, these are not the lawmakers we’ve been keeping an eye on the Senate side.

In January, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa floated a gaming reform bill, with a $10 million licensing fee and a 25 percent tax on gross online gambling revenue.

At the time we were also told to expect a Republican bill penned by Sen. Kim Ward and others.

Less than a week after Costa’s proposed legislation, new CERD Chairman Mario Scavello told CDC Gaming Reports, “Sometime in March, we’ll have something done and passed in the House and Senate.”

Adding, “It looks like online gaming has the support to pass.”

Because of the sponsors, it’s unclear if this bill is the much-ballyhooed Republican effort. Most likely it’s not, since it’s the House bill with a Senate number.

More likely, this is a rogue effort by the bill’s sponsors, who may be growing tired of the feet-dragging in the Senate.

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- 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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