Pennsylvania: Doing it Right Better than Doing it Fast

PennsylvaniaMark Gruetze believes it may be better to postpone online gambling legislation in Pennsylvania rather than rushing it through to resolve the budget crisis.

The budget crisis in Pennsylvania is now entering its fifth month. Although the Republican-led Senate and Democrat governor Tom Wolf have made some progress on compromises, there still remains a significant void in the budget while key issues remain unresolved.

Several politicians are looking at the regulation of online gambling to fill the void. Estimates suggest that regulation could generate as much as $100 million in tax revenue, while additional measures such as allowing slot machines in off-track betting parlors and airport departure lounges could raise as much as $700 million.

While the budget crisis deepens, the passage of online gambling legislation in Pennsylvania is looking more likely. However, not everybody is keen on using the expansion of gambling as a solution to the Keystone State´s financial problems – particularly at the expense of online gamblers.

The Voice of Reason – or at least, a Reasonable Voice

Mark Gruetze is a respected and experienced journalist who, for more than thirty years, has been covering gaming and gambling in Pennsylvania. Gruetze is the author of the Player´s Advantage column in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and last week he used his column to suggest that rushing through online gambling legislation would not necessarily be in players´ best interests.

Writing for, Gruetze notes that Pennsylvania is the second largest state for generating tax revenues from gambling, and that legislation introduced in the past has always considered the potential effect on the public. If the regulation of online gambling is rushed through, Gruetze comments, it would limit the discussion and could result in only half-measures being introduced.

The Next Generation of Regulated Gambling

In his article Gruetze comments that Pennsylvania is on the forefront in the next generation of regulated [online] gambling/q> and has the potential to set a nationwide standard for player protection, public accountability and reasonable tax rates. However, by reacting to a crisis with crisis legislation, Gruetze says that the debate would not get the scrutiny it needs.

Several proposals for the regulation of online gambling have been on the table for most of the year, with licensing fees set at $5 million and suggested tax rates ranging from 14 percent to 59 percent. By comparison, a recently-introduced bill to regulate daily fantasy sports (DFS) proposes licensing fees of $50,000 and a tax rate of 5 percent on gross gaming revenues. Hardly fair for players who want to play online poker or at an online casino!

DFS Legislation could Also Delay Matters

Legislation to regulate online gambling in Pennsylvania could also be delayed by the recently introduced DFS proposals. A recently-scheduled hearing of the House Gaming Oversight Committee was cancelled due to committee members not wishing to discuss proposals for regulated online gambling without including the proposals to regulate DFS.

Furthermore, while Black Friday prosecutor Preet Bharara is looking into whether or not DFS contravenes UIGEA, it may be the case that the bills for both regulated online gambling and regulated DFS go back on the shelf until the legitimacy of DFS is determined. Undoubtedly that would eliminate online gambling revenues from the budget discussions, but maybe that would be the best thing for regulated online gambling in Pennsylvania.

Mark Gruetze seems to think so.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett