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Pennsylvania Officially Becomes Fourth State To Legalize Online Gambling As Wolf Signs Bill

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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed an expansive gaming package, formally making his state the fourth in the US to legalize online poker and gambling.

From the Associated Press:

The move came quickly after the legislature passed the gaming bill late last week, with the legalization and regulation of daily fantasy sports, sports betting and more also included. The bill Wolf signed was H 271. Wolf’s signature was the last step for the bill to become law.

Pennsylvania officially joins New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware with legal online gambling.

Almost game on for online poker, gambling in Pennsylvania

The biggest part of the gaming package is online poker and casinos.

Online casinos and poker won’t happen right away, however. The PA Gaming Control Board must still promulgate regulations and hand out licenses to conduct iGaming. (The bill puts an initial 90-day window for applying for licenses, followed by another 120-day window.)

By the time everything happens that needs to for a rollout of online casinos and poker, the second half of 2018 seems like a likely target date for launch in the state.

Revenue for PA from gaming

The House and Senate were counting on more than $200 million in revenue for the current fiscal year from gaming. The vast majority of that is likely to come from licenses for online gambling and poker.

The state will likely hand out a number of $10 million licenses that allow operators to delve into online slot machines, table games and poker all at once.

If licenses remain unclaimed after the initial rollout, PA will license operators piecemeal on those three segments at a pricetag of $4 million each.

Online slot machine revenue in the state will be taxed at a rate of 54 percent. Online table games and poker will be taxed at a 16-percent rate.

More on the possible outcomes of licensing and the tax rates here.

Breaking a legislative logjam for online gambling

The three states mentioned above had legalized online poker and/or casinos by 2013. Between than and now, there had been no shortage of states at least looking at the prospect of one or both.

But none — most notably California and New York — had reached the finish line, till now. PA’s enactment of an online gambling bill had been five years in the making. And it ends what had been years of frustration from online gambling proponents on the legislative front around the country.

Certainly PA’s move into the iGaming sector could be a wake-up call for other states that have contemplated online gambling (and sports betting).

More than just PA online casinos

The bill also legalizes DFS formally, although nearly all operators — including DraftKings and FanDuel — already served the state. It’s the 17th state to pass a DFS law, and the second top-10 state in terms of population to take that step (joining New York).

The provisions for single-game sports wagering puts PA in a category with New Jersey and Nevada with final laws on the books. To offer sports betting, the state would still need a change in the federal climate.

That could come via the NJ sports betting case that’s in front of the US Supreme Court, where oral arguments take place in December. Such a change could also come via Congress.

There are also a number of other provisions in the bill, including but not limited to:

  • Satellite casinos around the state
  • Video gaming terminals at truck stops
  • Tablet gaming at airports
  • Online lottery

More resources on new types of PA gaming

Correction: The story incorrectly stated how long it takes for the law to take effect. The law takes effect immediately.

- 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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