In the past ten days, two igaming bills have been introduced in Pennsylvania, both of which will likely be considered in a House committee hearing in April.
Rep. Nick Miccarelli proposed HB 695 this week, while Rep. John Payne did the honors last week with HB 649. The House Committee on Gaming Oversight in Pennsylvania has scheduled a public hearing entitled “Internet Gaming and Mobile Gaming” for April 16.
HB 695 is a rehash of HB 2297 that Miccarelli volleyed to his fellow legislators in 2014. The proposal is online poker only, leaving out online casino games as gambling options for Keystone State residents.
HB 649 encompasses a wider range of offerings, permitting online games such as blackjack and roulette as well as poker. The difference in the two proposals does not end there, with the bad actor dilemma that has been so troubling of an issue in both New Jersey and California also coming into play in Pennsylvania.
Bad actor language is included in HB 649 that would seemingly keep PokerStars out. Miccarelli’s HB 695 goes in the completely opposite direction, allowing PokerStars to have a seat at the table due to the change of ownership to Amaya last year.
Both proposals would like gross gaming revenue (GGR) to be taxed at a rate of 14%, set the licensing fee at $5 million, and allow those companies already licensed to provide land-based gambling in Pennsylvania to have the ability to apply for Internet gaming licenses.
Pennsylvania Casino Revenue Down
Revenue at Pennsylvania casinos has been waning as of late, and lawmakers are looking at ways to replenish what has been lost. In that regard, it would make much more sense to go with HB 649 in order to reap the benefits of all online gambling options including casino games.
A look at the igaming regime in the neighboring state of New Jersey shows that the revenue generated in 2013 and 2014 was heavily weighted in favor of online casino action over online poker at a 75% to 25% clip. That certainly will be a consideration when Pennsylvania legislators sit down and crunch the numbers next month.
Also to get a good look would be the possible benefit of PokerStars as a player in the market. Although that has yet to happen in New Jersey, depriving Pennsylvania state officials of studying the impact of the igaming behemoth’s inclusion, it goes without saying that PokerStars would add a certain flavor that is definitely lacking when the company is forced to remain on the rail.
With the powers that be in California continuing to bicker over that state’s possible regulation of online poker, it appears that Pennsylvania has now taken the lead as the state with the best chance of joining Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey in the online gambling party in the U.S. However, approved igaming legislation and a subsequent launch are a long ways off at this point in time.