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Pennsylvania Newspaper Sees Positive Future in Online Gambling

A major Pennsylvania newspaper’s editorial board made a strong proclamation this past weekend when they came out in favor of the state expanding into online gambling. This is the first newspaper to weigh in on Pennsylvania’s potential expansion into Internet gambling.

Pennsylvania is considered one of the frontrunners for online gambling expansion next year, but expansion is far from assured and is still viewed as a bit of a long shot. The endorsement by The Sentinel editorial board could help pro-online gambling legislators and advocates get their message to the masses, counteract any negative columns, and possibly sway a few legislators that are currently on the fence.

Citing the current situation unfolding in neighboring New Jersey, The Sentinel’s editorial board endorsed online gambling in Pennsylvania in a short editorial simply titled, Our View: Seeking opportunities online.

The four-member editorial board sees the burgeoning industry as a way to stem current and future revenue slides, and referenced the Econsult Solutions study that was delivered to the Pennsylvania legislature earlier this year as a way to raise up to $113 million per year in tax revenue for the state.

The editorial also spoke to Pennsylvania’s successes in gaming, citing how Pennsylvania has quickly (in just eight years) risen to the second largest casino industry in the country behind Nevada. But, as The Sentinel editorial board points out, revenue has already started to decline as new competition continues to pop up in nearby states — a trend that will only become more pronounced as the years go on.

“The circle is closing. New Jersey and Delaware have legalized online gambling and are expanding casinos; New York is on the edge of legislative approval for Internet play; Maryland is looking at a sixth casino and Ohio has been deliberately sidestepping enforcement of online gambling,” the editorial board stated.

The board then went on to cite the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board as saying “increased competition” is responsible for the slide in revenue, “and the next logical step is legalized online gambling.”

The path to a bill in 2015

Pennsylvania first flirted with online gambling expansion in April of 2013 when Representative Tina Davis introduced a bill to legalize online gambling.

The Davis bill received little attention, and was met with lukewarm support and opposition, but it did set the stage for the State Senate to commission a study (the Econsult Solutions study referenced earlier) in December of 2013 to examine potential online gambling in the state and compare it with other forms of expanded gambling.

Things took a turn for the weird in February of 2014 when State Representative Mario Scavello tried to score some brownie points with Sheldon Adelson when he introduced a bill that would make playing online poker a crime in the state. The bill was quickly forgotten once the principles realized how much of a backlash the proposed legislation created.

Within two months talk had once again turned to expansion and not locking up Pennsylvania players who accessed online poker sites.

Before the eConsult study’s results were introduced in May of 2014, the State Assembly’s Democratic Policy Committee (which includes Rep. Tina Davis) held an impromptu online gambling hearing that was positive and promising.

The hearing went reasonably well, with a positive albeit unapprised vibe to the proceedings and the knowledge level of the state legislators. Just days after the hearing the eConsult report was introduced and the findings were incredibly positive, building on the momentum from the hearing.

And with that being the case, Pennsylvania suddenly became a serious contender for online gambling expansion in the near future.

From there, a second even more productive hearing was held in June that included most of the gaming power players in the state.

Even with two productive hearings, a study in hand, and an open-minded legislature and gaming control board, 2014 seemed somewhat unreasonable, which it turned out to be.

Still, Pennsylvania was moved from the “when” not “if” column, and 2015 is looking much better with The Sentinel’s official endorsement.



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Steve Ruddock

Steve is veteran of the the poker industry, first as a player and now as a writer focusing mainly on the regulated U.S. markets and the politics of poker. Follow Steve on Twitter @SteveRuddock and at Google+.