Pennsylvania anti-online gambling advocates are finally having their voices heard as a new bill has been introduced that seeks to ban all online gambling including poker.
House Bill 1013, primarily sponsored by State Rep. Thomas Murt (R-152nd District) along with six other Republicans and one Democrat, is asking the House Gaming Oversight committee to “not promulgate rules and regulations allowing any form of Internet gambling.”
“No individual or entity shall solicit, invite, collect or accept cash or any other form of currency through the Internet for the purposes of wagering or betting,” Murt’s bill reads.
“No individual or entity shall organize, or cause to be organized, any type of gambling event that is held over the Internet.”
Unfortunately for Murt and those in favor of passing Pennsylvania anti-online gambling legislation, Rep. John Payne (R-106th District), chairman of the Gaming Oversight committee, has sponsored his own bill pursuing the passage of Internet gambling, not preventing it.
It’s rather inconceivable to believe Payne might take Murt’s recommendations and alter his opinion that bringing Internet casinos to residents of Pennsylvania would result in anything but a positive outcome for the Keystone State.
HB 1013 doesn’t specify why Gaming Oversight members should block iGaming in the two-page bill, instead only requesting that amendments to Title 4 (Amusements) and Title 18 (Crimes and Offenses) be implemented to block online gambling from becoming legalized.
Pennsylvania is home to 12 brick-and-mortar casinos, none more famed than the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, owned by anti-iGaming Vegas magnate Sheldon Adelson.
Just last month, the state set a new record for table game revenues, bringing in nearly $70 million, a substantial chunk of March’s grand total of $277 million.
Though Murt and his co-sponsors believe citizens who gamble online in PA should be subject to severe penalties including a third degree misdemeanor which carries a prison sentence up to a year, a recent study by Pennsylvania’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee suggests legalizing online casino games would generate $178 million in annual revenue for the state.
That’s the leading reason why three bills have already been proposed.
Current PA Pro-iGaming House Proposals:
Rep. Payne’s HB 649 would legalize both online casinos and poker rooms. “Internet gaming is already here. I’m not trying to expand it. I’m trying to make it legal, and I’m trying to make sure we make sure people aren’t ripped off,” Payne says of his legislation.
Rep. Nick Miccarelli’s (R-162nd District) HB 695 only seeks to legalize online poker. Internet casinos and other games wouldn’t be included in his bill.
Rep. Tina Davis’ (D-141st District) bill follows Payne’s thinking in legalizing all forms of online gambling, but it comes with a $5 million licensing fee for operators to set-up in PA. Her bill also mandates online gamblers must first register in-person at a land-based casino to complete the necessary paperwork and registration process.
Though Governor Tom Wolf has largely signaled that he’s against Internet gaming, the state’s lawmakers seem adamant on discussing the issue fully.
As Wolf tries to lessen the strain on homeowners through reduced property taxes but wishes to invest more money into public schools, lawmakers will surely be looking for additional revenue streams, meaning online gambling could become much more attractive in the days ahead.