It’s Official: Pennsylvania Governor Signs Bill Legalizing Online Poker

Steve Ruddock October 30, 2017 742 Reads
Online Poker Pennsylvania -- Tom Wolf

Well before the November 5 deadline to act, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed the state’s comprehensive gaming reform package into law.

And with the Governor’s signature, Pennsylvania is officially the fourth state to legalize online poker, joining Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.

The gaming reform package was three years in the making and was finally passed by the legislature last week. The announced signing by Governor Wolf ended speculation being stoked by the anti-gaming crowd that Wolf might, or should veto the bill.


The new law at a glance

At the heart of the legislation is the legalization of online poker and casino games, but the bill does a whole lot more than that.

As US Poker reported last week, the scope of the new law is vast.

The core components of it are the:

  • Legalization of online poker and online casino games
  • Legalization and regulation of daily fantasy sports contests
  • Authorization of the sale of online lottery products
  • Authorization of up to five video gaming terminals at qualified truck stops
  • Creation of up to ten “satellite” casinos in designated areas

The bill also:

  • Authorizes tablet gambling in secure locations at qualified airports
  • Authorizes skill-based and hybrid games
  • Eliminates the amenity requirement (membership fee) at Category 3 casinos for a one-time fee of $1 million
  • Allows Category 3 casinos to increase the maximum number of slot machines by 250 for a one-time fee of $2.5 million, and/or increase maximum by 15 tables for a one-time fee of $1 million
  • Reinstates the local share tax the PA Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional last year
  • Authorizes the Pennsylvania Lottery to offer Keno
  • Eliminates a third Category 3 license the state hadn’t awarded
  • Eliminates ban on casino operators owning more than one casino in the state
  • Authorizes Category 2, 3 and 4 casinos to contract with racinos to simulcast horse racing
  • Allows ADW (Advanced Deposit Wagering)

While not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, Pennsylvania is now the fourth state to legalize online poker and is the shot in the arm that US poker players needed.

Timeline of what happens next

Pennsylvania is expected to move quickly on online gambling, but we pieced together a projection last month.

Precisely when the first Pennsylvania online gambling websites will launch is unclear. However, the state is expected to take an aggressive approach, seen in the self-imposed deadlines below that were written into the new law.

  • Now that Governor Wolf has signed the bill into law, the online gaming provisions will go into effect immediately.
  • Once enacted, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will begin taking applications for online gaming licenses.
  • The PGCB has 90 days to approve or deny individual applications. For the first 120 days, only licensed Pennsylvania casinos will be able to apply.
  • If licenses remain unclaimed after 120 days, qualified outside entities can apply for those licenses.

As Chris Grove noted in a comprehensive article that answers many questions about the new Pennsylvania online gambling law, “Pennsylvania’s fiscal year ends in June, which places some political pressure on the process (i.e., the government would prefer to book license fees before the fiscal year ends).”

Two things to watch for are:

  1. When the PGCB unveils its regulations.
  2. When the PGCB begins accepting applications from Pennsylvania’s land-based casinos.

For an extensive look at what the bill means for the state, check this analysis from PlayPennsylvania.com