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Regulated online poker and gambling in the U.S. took a small step forward today as a Pennsylvania committee voted in favor of igaming legislation. This is great news for those in favor of online poker in the Keystone State.

The House Gaming Oversight Committee passed an unamended version of HB 649 by a margin of 18-8, greasing the wheels for the measure to make its way to a vote by the the entire House, and then the Senate. Should both of those chambers see their way clear to approve the bill, HB 649 would land on the desk of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for his signature.

HB 649 was proposed by GO committee chairman John Payne, who has been pushing for its passage with greater aggression as of late due to the state’s budget shortfall that’s estimated to be in the ballpark of two billion dollars. That budget is well over four months past due and regulated online gambling is viewed as a possible way to overcome the deficit.

Poker Players Alliance Applauds Approval

In a message from Poker Players Alliance executive director John Pappas:

“With the passage of HB 649, the House Gaming Oversight Committee has proven their commitment to providing Pennsylvania residents with a safe and regulated place to play online poker within their own borders. It is our hope that the legislation will be enacted on its own or as part of the state’s 2016 budget by the end of this year. The safety of consumers and the fiscal health of Pennsylvania will be vastly improved when Internet gaming is appropriately licensed, regulated and taxed.”

As alluded to by Pappas, HB 649 can take another route to become law other than separate votes by the House and Senate. The bill could find its way onto the 2016 budget and become enacted when the legislature takes a vote on that budget.

HB 649 allows for players within Pennsylvania to wager on online poker and online casino games that would be operated by the state’s existing casinos. Licensees would pay a $5 million license fee and be taxed 14% on their revenue. Those same licensees would be allowed to join forces with vendors more experienced in the operation of online gaming platforms. Interstate partnerships, as has already been done in Nevada and Delaware, would be permitted.

**Read our interview with the State Director for the Poker Players Alliance in Pennsylvania, Judah Rosenstein, for more information**

Regulation Slowdown

Regulated Internet poker and gambling in the U.S. has been in somewhat of a dry spell recently, as its been two years since any state launched an igaming regime. Delaware and New Jersey both did so in November 2013, following Nevada’s lead seven months earlier.

The slowdown in the spread of regulation is at least partly attributable to the efforts of Sheldon Adelson and his Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. Adelson, the CEO of the Sands in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, is believed to be the only casino owner out of the dozen in the state who is opposed to online gambling.

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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.