New Comprehensive Pennsylvania Gaming Bill Would Allow Online Poker, Exclude Casino

June 1, 2015
New Comprehensive Pennsylvania Gaming Bill Would Allow Online Poker, Exclude Casino

Pennsylvania State Senator Sean Wiley announced in a memorandum that he will introduce a bill that covers multiple facets of the state’s gaming industry.

The bill looks to make changes in policy at both land-based and Internet gaming laws.

Online poker proposal

Wiley proposes legalizing online poker in Pennsylvania. Casino games would be excluded. The bill would direct gaming regulators to draft rules for online poker rooms no earlier than July 1, 2016. Games would go live no sooner than January 1, 2017. All regulated Pennsylvania online poker rooms would be operated by the state’s existing casino companies.

Pennsylvania interactive gaming licenses would cost $500,000. The tax rate would be 36 percent under this bill. The racing industry would receive 2 percent of the tax for promotional activity.

The remainder would be used to fund a school property tax freeze for senior citizens. These funds would be dispersed after $10 million per year in revenue was generated and deposited into a Casino Reinvestment Grant Fund.

The Casino Reinvestment Grant Fund does not exist under current law. It would be created under this bill. The funds deposited into this fund would go towards renovating and expanding existing gaming facilities.

Brick-and-mortar changes

Wiley proposes placing a seven-year moratorium on new gaming licenses in Pennsylvania. His opinion, according to the memo, is that this would give the market more time to mature so that regulators have more data about issuing the remaining licenses that are not yet placed. Those licenses come up for consideration in 2017. The bill would push the year to 2022.

The bill would change language that would allow gaming companies to own more casinos in the state. Gaming companies can only own up to one third of a second gaming license. This proposal would repeal that.

The original intent was to prevent a casino monopoly in Pennsylvania. The current landscape involves adequate competition. The bill would allow some consolidation in the Pennsylvania casino industry.

The bill also looks to make changes in the regulations pertaining to alcohol sales, tournament procedures, and licensing for racetracks.

Up to $2 million per year would be available for addiction counseling. The bill would also alter punishments for various gaming violations by patrons and operators. The proposal would also permit casinos to spread fantasy sports games. Traditional sports betting would not be permitted.

This is the fourth online poker bill in Pennsylvania this year. This is the first one that is tied to many proposed changes to the existing brick-and-mortar gaming industry in the state.

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