PA online gambling bill heads back to House

PA Senate Passes Gaming Bill With Online Poker, Casino And Daily Fantasy Sports

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A bill that would legalize Pennsylvania online casinos and poker won approval from the full Senate on Wednesday night.

A vote in the full House appears to loom on Thursday morning.

The moves came as multiple pieces of the revenue package to fund the state budget are progressing.

Last week, the Senate’s majority leader indicated that the gaming bill would be taken up this week.

The PA gaming bill resurfaces

The bill — H 271 — was amended and voted out of the Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday afternoon. It passed, as amended, 17-1. Soon thereafter, the bill was approved by the full Senate, 31-19.

Online gambling and daily fantasy sports are just one part of the expansive gaming package.

It was the first time the bill has seen public action since it was passed by the House in June. It’s the second time the Senate has passed a bill with iGaming in it.


What’s in the PA gaming package?

The bill is several hundred pages long, and it has provisions for all sorts of things related to gaming. Here are some of the top-level takeaways:

  • Legalizes and regulates online slot machines, table games and poker.
  • Regulates daily fantasy sports.
  • Provides for the regulation of sports betting, should it become legal at the federal level.
  • Authorizes the sale of online lottery products.
  • Authorizes video gaming terminals at qualified truck stops.
  • Authorizes tablet gambling in designated areas of qualified airports.
  • Authorizes up to ten “satellite” casinos.
  • Provides changes to Category 3 licenses (increased slots and removal of membership fee) for a one-time fee.

More from Penn Live on the non-gaming pieces of the bill.

Online gambling is the centerpiece of the bill

H 271 represents a massive expansion of gambling in the state. At the center of it all is the legalization of online gambling.

Steep tax rate for online slots

The tax rate for table games and poker is set at 14 percent, with an additional two percent local tax.

The tax rate for online slots is 52 percent, with the same two percent local tax bringing the total to 54 percent.

The latter rate is a massive overreach that will keep many operators on the sidelines, and prevent the industry from reaching its full revenue potential.

Three categories of online gaming licenses

H 271 breaks online gaming into three categories, each requiring a separate license:

  • Online slot machines
  • Online house-banked table games
  • Online poker, peer-to-peer games

Pennsylvania casinos will have first crack at licenses.

Within the first 90 days they can apply for all three licenses at a cost of $10 million. After 90 days the cost is $4 million per license.

After 120 days “qualified entities” from outside of Pennsylvania can apply for and receive an interactive license at a cost of $4 million per license.

Here’s the portion of the bill dealing with online gambling.

What’s next for the PA gaming bill?

The bill is now in the House. Later in the night, it was approved by the House Rules Committee and sent to the House floor.

At one point, it appeared the bill would come up for a vote on Wednesday night. The bill was debated until 11 p.m., and consideration of it was postponed until Thursday morning.

The prospects for the bill in the House are still not entirely clear, although oddsmakers would likely make its passage a favorite.

The House has previously insisted on widespread legalization of video gaming terminals at private taverns and bars as a part of the legislation. A more limited rollout of VGTs is in the bill.

- 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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