Pennsylvania lawmaker John Payne believes the odds for online gambling coming to the state are in his favor. State Rep. Payne (R-District 106) recently announced he will retire at the end of his seventh two-year term in November of 2016, but before he departs Harrisburg, he believes he has the support to finally end Internet gambling prohibition in the Keystone State.
Speaking with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Payne said the ongoing budget standoff among the Republican-controlled legislature and first-term Governor Tom Wolf (D) has created the perfect timing for the passing of online gambling legislation. Wolf has been at odds with other state legislators for some 200 days on how to generate additional revenue to cover the governor’s plans to increase education funding.
“We need revenue. They’re not going to find votes for (higher) taxes in an election year. So I would think gaming will be a component,” Payne explained.
Payne’s online gambling bill (HB 649) passed committee in November and will next be considered by the State House. The representative believes it could become law and signed by Wolf before July.
The online gambling conversation picked up much steam in 2015 as lawmakers across the country wrestled with the issue of daily fantasy sports (DFS). Once a seemingly underground activity restricted to only the most serious of sports fanatics, DFS went mainstream due to incessant advertising by the two market leaders, DraftKings and FanDuel.
A $350,000 payday by a DraftKings employee competing on FanDuel last fall took DFS from the eyes of TV watchers sitting on their couches to the eyes of lawmakers and legal authorities. The controversial topic did at least open the door to the conversation of general Internet gambling where it might have been overlooked in the past.
Poker Players Alliance Executive Director John Pappas told the Tribune-Review, “Lawmakers reason that if regulating daily fantasy sports is a good idea, maybe we should be looking at other forms of online gaming… The tax revenue for iGaming is a lot more lucrative than daily fantasy sports.”
Should the Keystone State eventually approve Payne’s proposition to legalize online casinos, the impact on Internet poker could be substantial. Currently only legal in Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey, Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million in population is more than the other three states combined.
Gambling analysts are largely in agreement that a prosperous online poker market in 2016 will depend on interstate compacts and the sharing of player pools across state borders.
Nevada and Delaware already do that, but the much larger Garden State has remained independent. A year ago, New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement Director David Rebuck said that interstate and international compacts are an important area in looking forward, and that “cooperation between jurisdictions is very important for building liquidity in peer-to-peer games such as poker.”
The more sizeable player base that would enter the pool from Pennsylvania might make it more enticing for lawmakers in New Jersey to take action as towards pooling partnerships. Payne’s act would allow for interstate compacts to be reached with other states wherever Internet gaming is permitted.
“Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Roman philosopher Seneca said that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” Payne wrote last year. “We can help prepare Pennsylvania’s gaming industry for the future, protect consumers and seize the opportunity to safely meet consumer demand and generate new revenue for the Commonwealth.”