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If Pennsylvania lawmakers continue on the same path as last week’s 18-8 approval of online gambling legislation by a House committee, the number of U.S. players eligible to play regulated poker and casino games online would double.

Current estimates place the population of Pennsylvania at 6th in the nation with 12.8 million. The regulated states operating thus far have equal that total collectively, with New Jersey at 9 million, Nevada at 2.9 million, and Delaware at 900,000. The new battle cry for advocates of igaming could be Double Up Pennsylvania!

Of course, there is a ways to go before HB 649 is either approved by both the House and Senate or becomes a part of the 2016 budget and is voted through via that channel. But igaming regulation in Pennsylvania has never been nearer to passage than it is at this moment after last week’s vote by the House Gaming Oversight Committee.

HB 649 Amended

Despite previous reports that HB 649 was approved by the GO committee unamended, it has been learned that changes were made to the bill prior to the successful vote. The Associated Press were apparently first to report on the amendments, followed by onlinepokerreport.

The key modifications include the license fee placed on casinos that choose to operate igaming sites was increased from $5 million to $8 million, and that vendors that partner with casinos to provide igaming platforms must pay a $2 million license fee rather than $1 million.

Also of significance is that video gaming terminals (VGTs) will be permitted at airports and off-track betting parlors. However, in order to be fitted with VGTs, those locations must be at least 50 miles from a Pennsylvania casino – which was increased from 35 miles.

PPA in Overdrive

The Poker Players Alliance has been busy following the GO committee approval, urging Pennsylvania online poker players to make their voices heard regarding their desire for HB 649 to move forward. The grassroots organization recently spruced up their website, including a page dedicated to the goings-on in the Keystone State.

Pennsylvanians are urged to email, phone and tweet their elected representatives and tell the lawmakers that “you want them to support HB 649 for consumer protections and increased state revenue.” Click here to learn the best ways to take action.

Patience

While regulated online poker and gambling in Pennsylvania is gaining momentum, those residing in the state and hoping to soon play legalized poker from their homes are reminded that the wheels of progress turn slowly. That’s especially true when that progress depends on politicians.

It’s been estimated that a launch could take anywhere from six to nine months once an igaming bill is enacted. In any event, online poker players in Pennsylvania have one more thing to be thankful for at the Thanksgiving table this Thursday – that regulated online poker may be just around the corner.

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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.

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