Summary: Online gaming should begin in July, if the process remains on track as expected.
Online casino and poker gaming was approved in late 2017 by Pennsylvania lawmakers. Last year, lawmakers worked to complete the licensing process, while operators focused on creating partnerships and preparing to launch services. This year, it is expected the online gambling will finally come to fruition in the state. According to recent news during a Pennsylvania House Appropriations Committee hearing, the industry should get going by July.
Summer Launch Planned for Pennsylvania
During the committee meeting, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board Kevin O’Toole announced updates involving the gambling expansion in the state. The 2017 passage of online gambling was part of a larger package that allowed for several changes within the gambling landscape of the state.
When it comes to the online gambling portion, lawmakers had to scramble as of late to make changes based on a recently changed Wire Act opinion by the Department of Justice. According to O’Toole, the new opinion has created a modest delay in the online gambling launch.
After being pressed for information, O’Toole stated that online gambling should launch in the next three or four months. This would be the end of the current fiscal year or the beginning of the next fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins on July 1st so the new online gaming industry should be ready to go by July, hopefully.
Server Delay Could Be An Issue
So, why the delay? In Pennsylvania, the launch has been delayed due to servers. Many operators who planned on offering online casino gaming felt like they could use existing servers in locations such as New Jersey. However, with the Wire Act change, that is not the case.
The new opinion on the Wire Act does not allow this to be an option. The transfer of data would be across state lines. So, operators are having to ensure that servers are located within the borders of Pennsylvania, to stay in line with the new ruling (while it’s being challenged).
The Wire Act ruling states that all interstate gambling is illegal. In the past, after the 2011 rule change, the Wire Act only applied to interstate sports betting. The change is currently being challenged in court via newly filed lawsuits, but Pennsylvania is making the appropriate changes now based on the new legal opinion so they can begin without any issues.
However, a problem does remain. It is still unclear as to how the DOJ opinion of the Wire Act will affect payment processing. In the past, when online gambling first started, certain payment processors were leery of allowing transactions to be completed. With this new opinion, the payment processors may not be as willing to complete transactions as they were before due to the interstate legality of the ruling.
Online gamblers may find that payment processing for real money games, especially via credit cards, may become more difficult. This was a problem in the past as credit card providers were not completing transactions and players were left with little alternatives to deposit and withdraw funds.
Because the new Wire Act opinion is relatively new, it is still unclear as to how it will affect the overall online gambling industry in the US as a whole. We shall see in the coming weeks what occurs via the lawsuits filed and if the opinion will go back to the 2011 ruling. That would be the most beneficial outcome as that was how online gambling came to fruition in the first place.
Hopefully, changes will be made or at least some type of amendment to allow the states that already offer online gambling to continue as normal. More states are also considering legislation so it is important to ensure that the legalities are covered so no problems exist in the future.