The legalization of online poker and gambling has never been closer to fruition in Pennsylvania, after a House committee passed a bill this past week that would regulate iGaming.
But the finish line is still a ways off, despite that progress; the bill must still either make it through both chambers of the legislature and then be signed by the governor, or be added to an overarching budget package as the state’s lawmakers attempt to end an ongoing impasse.
Mobilizing Pennsylvania poker players
In response, the Poker Players Alliance is trying to mobilize its base in Pennsylvania to contact lawmakers as HB 649 — a bill that started as an online-gaming only bill has been amended and morphed into a wide-ranging gambling expansion package — tries to make more progress.
The PPA has launched an advocacy web page specifically for Pennsylvania, giving people who want to support the online poker bill a way to contact lawmakers easily.
“Regardless of H.B. 649’s pathway to becoming law in Pennsylvania, we want to see Internet poker legislation enacted this year. Therefore, we are calling on all Pennsylvania poker players to tell the state’s policymakers why passing this bill is so important to Pennsylvanians and urging all poker reporters and activists to help spread the word through media outlets, blogs and social media forums,” said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA, in a press release. “It is absolutely crucial that Pennsylvania state representatives, senators and Governor Tom Wolf are hearing from their constituents about the consumer benefits of licensing and regulating Internet poker in the state.”
The page gives Pennsylvania citizens tools to contact legislators by email, phone, or social media. The page will also include updates on the legislation.
Not just an online poker and gambling bill, any more
The bill, when it was originally introduced early in 2014, was meant to cover only online gambling. But it’s now been turned into a vehicle to generate revenue for the state as it tries to pass a budget. Nearly every possible gambling expansion topic that has been floated in Pennsylvania this year now appears in HB 649; many of those measures appeared in a Senate bill that was introduced in June.
How the new measures will impact the online gaming part of the measure is unclear, although some of the parts of the amended bill are less popular than others. It’s certainly possible portions of the bill can be edited out to make it more palatable to the legislature as a whole and to Gov. Tom Wolf.
For now, if online poker and casino games are coming to Pennsylvania in the near future, it seems clear it would have to happen via HB 649.