Pennsylvania State Representative John Payne (R-Hummelstown) has expressed optimism about the chances that his bill to regulate online poker and gambling in the state, saying that most of his colleagues have remained open-minded about the possibility of Internet gaming.
Payne introduced HB 649 last month, a bill that would regulate and legalize online gambling (including poker) in Pennsylvania.
In an interview with Online Poker Report, Payne said that his talks with Governor Tom Wolf and some of his fellow legislators had shown him that they’re willing to give online poker real consideration in the current legislative session.
“So far the governor has been open-minded, and taken the position of go show me, what it is, how it would work, and what the revenue numbers are,” Payne said. “Most people are open-minded about it.”
Payne’s bill does have several advantages that may give Pennsylvania a better chance of passing Internet poker legislation than some other states. To start with, there are some structural factors that will help: Pennsylvania’s gaming landscape isn’t as varied as California’s, meaning it may be easier to build enough of an industry consensus to show support for a bill, and the state has already shown a willingness to expand gambling in recent years.
There’s also the fact that his bill has bipartisan support, as he introduced it with State Representative Nick Kotik (D-Allegheny).
But even if others don’t want to expand the gambling options in the state, Payne is arguing that his bill doesn’t really offering anything new at all.
“Internet gaming is already here,” Payne said. “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’s bill also comes at a time when the state of Pennsylvania is looking for new revenue streams. He has estimated that allowing online gambling in the state would generate about $120 million in revenue for casinos (which would be the only entities allowed to operate poker or casino sites under Payne’s legislation), a figure he says is conservative considering that New Jersey generated that much in its first year with a slightly smaller market. In New Jersey, online poker makes up about 25 percent of that revenue, with casino games accounting for the rest.
That money, Payne says, could be used in lieu of other revenue-raising options.
“If I have a choice of an income-tax increase or additional gaming revenue, I’m taking additional gaming revenue.”
Payne’s proposal to regulate online gambling isn’t the only such bill in front of the Pennsylvania legislature; a second bill, presented by State Representative Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware County) would only regulate online poker without allowing other games in the state.
Payne has also filed a resolution which wouldn’t regulate anything in Pennsylvania, but would make a statement about online gambling in the United States. That resolution, HR 140, would urge Congress to reject the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA), the federal online gambling ban backed by Sheldon Adelson.
“I don’t think it’s their authority,” Payne said of Congress’ ability to ban states from offering Internet poker and other online gambling products. Payne says that he hoped to preserve what he believes is Pennsylvania’s constitutional right to enact online gambling laws.