Pennsylvania has long been rumored to be one of the next states that could take up some form of online gambling. For a while now, the word has been that they were studying what was happening in New Jersey and other states before deciding whether or not Internet gaming was right for them.
It’s still not certain that the state has come to any conclusions, but it does look like the issue is gaining some momentum. Two Republican state senators have introduced a bill to the Pennsylvania Senate that would regulate online poker in the state, potentially making it the fourth state to allow licensing of online poker sites in the USA.
The bill was sponsored by State Senator Edwin Erickson (R-Chester) and co-sponsored by State Senator Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery), and was referred to the Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee earlier this week. A companion bill has been announced by Republican State Representative Nicholas Miccarelli, who is expected to introduce his version to the House in the near future.
The proposal is a fairly standard one as far as state-level online gambling bills go. It would only allow for Internet poker, and not for other casino games. It includes a “bad actor” clause that would prevent any entity that offered online gambling products in violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in the United States after December 31, 2006 from being licensed by the state. And those operators who gain a license would be required to pay a $5 million fee and would be taxed at 14 percent on gross gaming revenues.
But there is at least one provision that stands out as unusual in the proposed bill. As in many other states, only licensed gaming operators will be eligible to receive an online poker license in Pennsylvania. These companies will be allowed to partner with service providers and vendors in order to bring online poker games to the public.
However, unlike in other states where these vendor names can be used for marketing purposes, the Pennsylvania bill requires the licensee to be specifically associated with each site.
“To ensure that actual control and supervision remains with the licensed entity, the licensed entity’s publicly accessible Internet website or similar public portal must be marketed and made available to the public under the licensed entity’s own name and brand and not the brands of third parties,” the bill states.
This differs from the situation in states like Nevada or New Jersey, where service providers like Ultimate Poker have branded the sites they help operate.
The proposed legislation also allows for partnerships with other states, provided that those states have also regulated and legalized online poker and all games are legal in all partnered jurisdictions. At the moment, only Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware offer regulated online poker in the USA.
The introduction of this legislation comes weeks after a state hearing on the online gambling industry. Pennsylvania has been studying the possibility of offering Internet gaming as a way to continue to expand their gambling industry, which is now the second-largest of any state (trailing only Nevada).