A bill to regulate online poker and gambling in the state of Pennsylvania may receive consideration next month by that state’s House of Representatives.
HB 649, proposed by Pennsylvania Rep. John Payne, received a favorable vote of 18-8 by the House Gaming Oversight Committee last November. Payne currently chairs that committee and was hoping his igaming measure would gain further traction following its GO committee approval in light of the budget stalemate that continues to plague Keystone State lawmakers.
The bill did not pick up momentum in subsequent months, but the Reading Eagle reported on Monday that the full House may give it a look-see sometime next month. A budget deficit of more than $1 billion is prompting Pennsylvania legislators to examine new ways to raise revenue and regulating online gambling is seen by a number of those lawmakers as one way to take a chunk out of the budget shortfall.
Payne admitted that his measure is not the be-all and end-all of the state’s budget concerns, but would also benefit Pennsylvanians by providing consumer protections that are currently not in place. Online gamblers in the Keystone State continue to visit unregulated sites that offer poker and casino games, without any safeguards set up that ensure payments to winning players.
The Grass is Always Greener…
Pennsylvania lawmakers who may be on the fence about regulating online poker and gambling could perhaps be swayed by recent revenue numbers posted by the neighboring state of New Jersey. A new record in igaming revenue was reached in April, as Garden State gambling sites collected $17 million.
The April total broke the previous record of $15.5 million set the previous month, March. Year-over-year, New Jersey igaming revenue has increased 33.8%. That’s a hefty boost that may be the best selling point for undecided PA legislators.
HB 649 calls for online gaming to be run by the dozen casinos currently operating in Pennsylvania. The license fee is $5 million. All but one of the casinos are believed to be on board, with anti-online gambling activist Sheldon Adelson’s Bethlehem Sands the lone holdout.
Prediction Taking Shape?
Back in January, Rep. Payne predicted that certain elements of HB 649 would find approval by the middle of the summer. That followed successful passage of the bill in his GO committee in November, as well as the inclusion of igaming regulation in the budget proposal of the House Appropriations Committee in December.
Members of the Senate were not as enamored of online gambling legalization as their House counterparts, putting a temporary halt to the progress made by the House committees. Hopefully, the state’s continued budget woes and the revenue reports coming out of New Jersey will prompt Senate members to see the light.
The exact date in June that the full House may consider HB 649 has not been announced. PokerUpdate will provide that information once it’s made known about online poker in Pennsylvania.