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Pennsylvania State Representative John Payne has been fighting for online gaming harder than ever this year. Efforts began in 2013, but it wasn’t until 2015 that Payne saw more promise based on the success of neighboring New Jersey. His efforts already reached a new level of success this year.

As Pennsylvania is a gambling competitor of Atlantic City casinos, there has been a growing consensus among legislators that an expansion of the Pennsylvania gambling industry is necessary. Payne paid special attention to the online gambling component of the industry and made a big push in 2016 to attach internet games to the larger expansion bill.

Months passed in the spring with no movement whatsoever, but whenever asked, Payne expressed confidence that it could happen in 2016. He never wavered.

May Movements

Payne’s HB 649 had grown into a gambling expansion bill that included the highly divisive subject of VGTs (video gaming terminals). Setting up these slot machines at places like the airport and off-track betting establishments has been a very contentious topic among legislators and voters alike.

The bill – in the form of two amendments – made it to the House floor in Pennsylvania for discussion on May 24, and the debate was quite animated and lengthy, ultimately resulting in both amendments failing. However, legislators wanted to try again and pushed for another discussion and vote in early June.

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Jumbo June Success

As the first days and weeks of June went by without another vote on the gambling expansion amendments, hopes began to fade. That was until June 22, when the state’s House of Representatives met to discuss gambling expansion and a daily fantasy sports (DFS) bill.

The Poker Players Alliance provided updates as the House members looked at the amendment to HB 2150, the one without the VGTs but with DFS and online poker. And it passed by a vote of 115-80.

The bill then went to the House Appropriations Committee in order to ensure that the details of the bill are on par with expectations, and it will then go back to the House, where passage is expected without delay. That would push the bill to the Senate and on to Governor Tom Wolf for a final signature. With the state in great need of added revenue and the need to satisfy gaming lobbies, the bill is expected to become law.

Cautious Celebration

Poker players have been to the edge of the promised land before in states like New York and California, and they have suffered heartbreaking defeats. It is tough to get the poker community too excited about a bill that still has to pass both houses in the legislature.

However, the Poker Players Alliance did not hold back. A press released quoted PPA Executive Director John Pappas as saying, “It is about time – this legislation is long overdue! Pennsylvanians deserve robust consumer protections and today the Pennsylvania House delivered.”

Pappas went on to note that the move will create jobs, help close the budget gap, protect online gaming consumers, and be a winning move for the state. “The online poker community urges the Senate and Governor Wolf to act swiftly to approve this measure.”

The PPA encourages all poker supporters to contact Pennsylvania legislators and express support for the bill to ensure a swift and painless passage through the entirety of the legislature. Considering the tenacity and hard work of Payne to make this happen and the dire need for revenue in the state, the US online poker community may just see a fourth state legalize the game.

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Jennifer Newell

Jennifer has been a freelance writer in the poker industry for a decade. She left a full-time job with the World Poker Tour to tell the stories of poker. She now lives in St. Louis, writes about poker while pursuing other varied interests, and speaks her mind on Twitter… a lot.

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