Until Wednesday, Oct 25th online gambling was illegal in Pennsylvania. However, a bill that legalized online gambling and online poker was passed by Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday and passed by Pennsylvania House on Thursday. Many consider this to bthe biggestst gambling expansion since the state legalized land based gambling a decade ago. A bill H 217 drafted and nourished by Republican Senator George Dunbar passed fairly easy with 109 votes supporting the bill and 72 voting against it. When the governor signs the bill, Pennsylvania will become the fourth state to allow online gambling and first to allow both casino and lottery games online.
Reasoning behind the PA online gambling bill
Currently, Pennsylvania lawmakers are facing a huge 2018 budget deficit . In an effort to plug the the budget hole both democrats and republicans worked together to draft a version of online gambling bill that will make gambling easily accessible for younger players. If a bill wasn’t passed, the entire state was facing huge government cuts or even local government shutdown. Go. Tom Wolf(Dem) even extended the bill, allowing gambling to spread through truck stops and even airports. Even though official representative said that it will take a few days before governor will make its decision, it is pretty much obvious that Wolf is going to sign the bill.
A New Jersey Experience
Bordering New Jersey experience with online gambling is sure to impact political votes and gambling business incentives in Pennsylvania. Being nation’s most prominent online gambling state, New Jersey passed its online gambling legislation back in 2013 and since then enjoyed huge tax contribution from the gambling industry. Moreover it seems that online gambling thrives in New Jersey employing thousands of people, attracting hundreds of thousands of new players with in the state and across the border and offering lucrative gambling incentives, promo codes and online offers to new players.
What’s in the bill
The bill has spent only 18 hours on the floor in both of the houses, therefore it is not yet clear what provision are included in the bill, however some key takeaways are already evident.
- Bill legalizes online slot machines, online table games and online poker
- Regulates fantsy sports gambling across borders of PA
- Legalizes sale of online lottery
- Authorizes video gambling at specific truck stops
- Legalizes computer gambling in qualified areas in state airports
- Creates gambling zones for 10 new mini-casinos
Details of New Pennsylvania Mini-Casinos from the Gambling Bill
So called mini-casinos are allowed to keep not more than 750 slot machines and 30 table games. The license for the mini-casinos will be selled from an auction to existing PA land based casino owners. Bidding will start at $ 7.5 million per license and in order to keep table games within the mini-casino, owner will have to pay another $2.5 million out of the pocket.
The Bill establishes 3 types of online gambling licenses
- Online Slot machines only
- Online house-banked table games
- Online poker and peer to peer games
Established Pennsylvania casinos will have a pole position for first 90 days after the legislation is passed and will be able to smuggle all three licenses for $10 million After the 90 days everyone are free to apply for the licenses but have to purchase them separately at $4 million per license.
Not everyone is happy with the bill
Pennsylvania casinos sent over $1.4 billion to the state budget in 2016 fiscal year. Many of them are not happy with the online gambling expansion as they see a revenue threat from established online gambling giants such as Tropicana Casino, Betfair Online Casino, Sugarhouse, Virgin Casino and Mohegan Sun Casino.
New Jersey State which has a long lasting history of brick and mortar casinos and a nation leading online gambling industry has a mixed feeling about the bill. It can benefit from new players if the state reaches consensus with the pennsylvania lawmakers allowing PA residents to enjoy New Jersey online casinos. Nevertheless, 10 new casino zones poses a threat to land based Atlantic City Casinos that has lived through the closure of the five prominent casinos. Closures are partially attributed to the new casinos that opened along the border of the two states from Pennsylvania side.
Moreover some lawmakers are not happy and present various reasoning behind their rhetoric. Margo Davidson(Rep), called the bill “corporate welfare for casinos and special carve outs for special people.”
At this moment not all of the details are clear about the H 271 bill. Even though the bill was passed extraordinarily fast with in the both legislative houses, there is some opposition to the bill coming from both politicians and established gambling sharks of Pennsylvania. Finally, since the purpose of bill is to cover 2018 budget deficit we can expect to see a rush over passage and execution of the bill.