Latest Pennsylvania online poker updates
Path to legal online poker in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania is closer than ever to legalizing online poker, but whether or not a bill will reach the Governor’s office before the 2017 session comes to a close is still an open question.
The initial outlook for online poker legislation in 2016 wasn’t good, despite significant headway made in 2015. That year, a gaming reform bill (HB 649) sponsored by staunch online gambling proponent Rep. John Payne reached the House floor before action stalled.
The broad scope of the bill may have been it’s undoing, as not only did it cover online poker and casino, but virtually every other gaming reform considered by legislators. One of these, the addition of video gaming terminals (VGT) at non-casino locations, proved particularly unpopular.
Legislative Action in 2016
For the first five months of 2016 HB 649 collected dust, leading advocates to believe that online gambling expansion would not be in the cards in 2016. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, online gambling reemerged as a hot topic. Unfortunately, the VGT issue continued to a point of contention, and an amendment to newly-minted HB 2150 that would see VGTs included at bars and taverns was soundly defeated in the House by a margin of 116-79.
The tide quickly turned when Rep. Rosita Youngblood introduced an amendment (8734) that disallowed VGTs. The Youngblood amendment easily passed (115-80), and in late June, the House passed HB 2150.
Then, in mid-July, momentum reached a fever pitch when Gov. Tom Wolf earmarked $100 million from online gambling expansion as part of a state revenue package. However, the Senate, which has proven less optimistic on online gambling than the House, did not act on HB 2150 before closing up shop for its summer recess. Online gambling ultimately was not enacted in 2016.
Failure to pass a bill in 2016 isn’t a death knell for legal online poker in Pennsylvania in 2017, but it will complicate matters.
Specifically, by January, Pennsylvania will have a brand new legislature and two new chairmen of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. Which means that any legislative track to legalize online poker will essentially be starting from scratch.
Pennsylvania Online Poker FAQ
Why is Pennsylvania considering online poker and casino games?
Pennsylvania is the second largest casino state behind Nevada, boasting 12 land-based casinos. It is trying to remain competitive in what has become a saturated marketplace.
Pennsylvania also wants to tax an activity that already occurs illegally between offshore sites and its residents. HB 649 would also create jobs in the state.
What are the particulars of HB 2150?
Players would need to be 21 years of age or older to play online poker and casino games in Pennsylvania. That is the same age as brick-and-mortar casinos in the state.
Although players will not have to hold residence in the Keystone State, they must be in PA to play for real-money.
The licensing fee to participate in online gambling would be $8 million for casinos and $2 million for service providers. Given these figures, it’s more than plausible that online gambling could fulfill the $100 million budget shortfall on its own, as at least 10 land-based casino and multiple significant vendors are likely to apply for licenses.
The tax rate would be 16 percent: 14 percent would go to state coffers, and the remaining 2 percent to a local share, distributed by the Dept. of Community and Economic Development.
HB 2150 would allow Pennsylvania to network with player pools in other states. One example of this is the current liquidity sharing agreement operating between Nevada and Delaware. If HB 2150 passes, online poker players in Pennsylvania could theoretically connect to this network, assuming all states agree.
What are the chances that an online poker bill in Pennsylvania passes?
Pennsylvania is the most likely state to legalize and regulate online poker in 2017. The current legislation effort marks the strongest push to legalize the activity since NJ crossed the finish line in 2013.
Would Pennsylvania also pass online casino games?
HB 2150 would legalize online casino games, as well as poker and daily fantasy sports.
Would Pennsylvania network poker with other states?
Yes, the current proposals would allow for interstate player pools.
How long would it take for online poker to go live in Pennsylvania if it passes?
A safe assumption is between nine and twelve months after the bill passes into law.
Would players outside Pennsylvania be able to play at state sites?
Only players located in states with an interstate online poker agreement would be able to access Pennsylvania sites.
How would Pennsylvania sites ensure players are physically located in the state?
Regulated poker sites use geolocation services to determine whether a player is in the jurisdiction. This includes combining the location of a player’s cell phone, his connection to the Internet, and the location of nearby wireless network signals. A player that cannot be verified as being within the state will not be able to access real money games.