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Pennsylvania's Online Poker Efforts Get Serious

Pennsylvania appears to be getting closer to going all-in on online poker legislation with an Internet gambling hearing set for tomorrow and a new online poker bill being readied for introduction later this month.

A June 3 hearing at 9:30 a.m. in front of the Pennsylvania Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee is on the agenda tomorrow. The duration of the hearing will not be limited to just a few hours, as an official state website lists testimony and debate to continue well into the afternoon.

The hearing will focus on Pennsylvania’s current gambling industry that ranks second in the U.S. with regard to land-based gambling. It will also center around a recent gambling study commissioned by state officials that found online gambling to be a viable source of new revenue that will not cannibalize existing revenue currently obtained at live gaming tables and slot machines.

“The Current Condition and Future Viability of Casino Gaming in Pennsylvania” was released last month and informed state officials that $129 million in annual online poker revenue could be had once the regime takes hold. The study also warned that state casinos are likely to experience decreasing revenue in future years due to the expansion of gambling in Maryland, Ohio, New York and New Jersey.

Internet poker regulations could offset those expected losses. While the hearing will shed more light on the online gambling issue, Senator Edwin Erickson has announced that he will propose online poker legislation to his colleagues later this month.

In the next few weeks, I intend to introduce Senate Bill 1386, legislation that would authorise interactive gaming in the form of online poker,” Erikson told eGR.

Keystone State Rep. Tina Davis introduced online gambling legislation last year, but the forward-thinking lawmaker may have been ahead of her time as her political brethren failed to see the benefits of her proposal. Armed with the new study commissioned and released by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee in May, state lawmakers are now in better position to fully understand the positive aspects of online poker legislation.

Erickson’s measure is poker-only and sets a tax rate of 14% of gross revenue and a license fee of $5 million levied upon poker operators. Those operators must not have been active in the U.S. market following passage of the UIGEA in 2006.

Hoping to grab the revenue that is currently going to offshore poker sites that fail to protect state citizens, Erickson believes his proposal is win-win for his constituency, as well as for the entire Keystone State.

Many Pennsylvania residents participate in illegal and unregulated poker sites,” Erickson said. “Establishing a strong regulatory framework under the Gaming Control Board will assist in shutting down these illegal sites and enhance consumer protection for our gaming residents.”



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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.