Pennsylvania online poker is a hot topic these days, and it seems like there is some real momentum in the state that isn’t seen in most of the other jurisdictions where Internet poker bills show up and quickly fade away.
And if the number of different bills being introduced in the state is any indication, only California can rival Pennsylvania when it comes to interest in the topic.
State Representative Tina Davis (D-Bucks County) has introduced the third online poker bill of the year to the Philadelphia legislature, presenting a bill that would legalize and regulate both poker and other casino games played over the Internet.
The bill, known as HB920, would only allow casinos that were already licensed in the state to offer such games, and would include a $5 million authorization fee for any licensee that wanted to begin offering iGaming in the state.
That first license would be awarded for a year only, but could then be renewed for three year terms at a cost of $500,000 each time.
Davis’ bill could now be considered alongside two other pieces of online poker legislation that are sitting in the state legislature. First, there’s a bill by state Representative John Payne (R-Dauphin County); similarly to Davis’ bill, Payne’s would regulate both online poker and casino games.
There’s also a third bill from state Representative Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware County) that would only allow for poker to be played over the Internet.
There are a couple of propositions in the Davis bill that make the legislation unique. For one, it would require players to sign up for their online gambling accounts at one of Pennsylvania’s 11 casinos before they could play at an Internet poker or casino site.
The bill also carries a rather high 28 percent tax on daily gross gaming revenue, though Davis described that rate as “reasonable.” Taxes would go towards property tax relief, transit services for the elderly, and the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund.
“Considering efforts across the country to legalize internet gaming, it is imperative that we maintain the integrity of our gaming industry amid inevitable federal preemption and competing states,” Davis wrote earlier this year. “A responsible internet gaming system must be created in order to protect Pennsylvanians and the success of the established gaming industry in the Commonwealth.”
While Davis’ bill does have several co-sponsors, it probably isn’t the favorite among the three bills to actually make noise in this year’s session.
Payne is the chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, which puts him in the perfect position to move his bill forward. In addition, Davis has already signed on as a co-sponsor of his bill, which might signal that she’s willing to go with his legislation if it proves to have more traction in the legislature.
The latest bill comes just over a week before a public hearing on Internet Gaming and Mobile Gaming is scheduled to be hosted by Pennsylvania’s House Gaming Oversight Committee.
That will be followed in May by a second hearing on Internet Gaming by the same committee. According to PPA Executive Director John Pappas, the hearings should be an important forum for discussion for online poker supporters.
“We have talked to lawmakers in Pennsylvania and they are taking iGaming seriously,” Papas told Online Poker Report.