PA progressing toward online gambling legalization

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Pennsylvania lawmakers may not be prepared to legalize and regulate online gaming just yet, but they are certainly taking a long hard look at it.

On Tuesday, March 7 a joint committee of the Pennsylvania House and Senate are planning to host a hearing regarding an expansion of gambling inside the state. All indications are that any expansion of gambling in Pennsylvania would likely include the introduction of legal and regulated iGaming.

According to the Pennsylvania State Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development committee, this will be a joint public hearing with the House Gaming Oversight committee “to receive testimony on casino gaming issues pertinent to both committees.”

Previous iGaming legislation in Pennsylvania has made it through the House, but failed to gain any traction in the Senate. However, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has said he wants to look at online gambling as one of a series of possible answers to the state’s current budget deficit.

Gov. Wolf held a live Q&A session on Facebook last month and praised the recent work done by Pennsylvania’s House and Senate in regards to the issue of online gambling.

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“I think there is real work being done in the General Assembly as to what enhanced gambling, including online gambling, including possibly online poker, would look like moving forward,” he said. “The deal is that whatever we do on this enhanced gaming, it should not take business away from our casinos or the lottery. Otherwise why would we do it? Because we’re already getting revenues from that. It should be something that could be implemented cleanly, and the oversight we could do without being really that intrusive.

“There are a lot of details that have to go into this. I know other states have done online poker and have done it successfully. We need to keep learning from what we can from those states.”

Gov. Wolf and the Pennsylvania Assembly need not look too far for success stories. The neighboring state of New Jersey passed online gambling legislation and opened up a regulated and taxed online gaming market in late November 2013. In 2016, a $196.7 million internet gaming win posted by New Jersey’s online casinos and poker rooms helped push the state’s total gaming revenues up to $2.603 billion for the year, representing the first revenue increase in New Jersey gaming in a decade.

Pennsylvania may represent an even larger market for online gambling than New Jersey. The state’s population is 12.79 million compared to 8.938 million in New Jersey, and Pennsylvania’s own gaming industry posted gross total gaming revenue, combining slot machines and table games, of more than $3.2 billion in 2016.

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Marty Derbyshire has been covering online gambling for various industry media outlets since 2007.

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