Pennsylvania may be a latecomer to regulating online gambling, but may blaze new trails when it comes to regulating Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).
Rumors have been flying that Pennsylvania lawmakers are seriously considering the approval of igaming legislation due to a budget deficit that is reportedly as high as $2 billion. Should that happen, regulation would occur well over two years after Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have already done so.
Additional rumors have been making the rounds indicating that the Keystone State may outlaw wagering on DFS, except for newly created DFS sites that would be tied to the state’s 12 casinos. Pennsylvanians would be forbidden to bet at the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings, but could legally wager on fantasy sports at sites hosted by SugarHouse or the Parx Casino.
An October 21 hearing before the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee in which a vote on online gambling legislation may have been taken was cancelled and pushed over to next week. The reason for the postponement was said to be the DFS issue, as lawmakers apparently are not going to move on one piece of legislation (igaming) without the other (DFS).
How does this affect online poker players in Pennsylvania who have been clamoring for regulation in order to legally play the game that they love? While it appears that DFS regulation may be holding back the advancement of online poker and gambling legislation, that is not necessarily the case.
DFS has taken center stage as of late over whether it’s a game of skill or chance and whether it’s protected by the UIGEA. Apparently, Black Friday prosecutor Preet Bharara is looking into the matter in great detail and may put the hammer down on the entire industry as was done with online poker in 2011.
The idea of Pennsylvania lawmakers taking a proactive approach and banning DFS unless controlled and regulated in-state will likely help the cause of online poker regulation rather than hurt it. Those legislators are partially spurred on by the turmoil facing the DFS industry and are more likely to act sooner on both issues – DFS and online poker – rather than just one.
Added to the equation is the budget shortfall, which gives igaming and DFS regulation a new urgency that was not in play just a few months ago. It appears that the “wait and see” approach favored by Keystone State lawmakers previously has been tossed out the window and replaced with a burning desire to add revenue in whatever ways possible such as online poker and gambling, as well as DFS.
Also included in the mix are the possibilities of slot machines at Pennsylvania airports and Internet lottery sales. We may see Pennsylvania regulate the whole kit and caboodle, a groundbreaking course of action that may be copied by other states in the future.
It appears that most of the dozen Pennsylvania casinos are on board with the plan to regulate DFS and online gambling. A lone exception would be the Bethlehem Sands owned by Sheldon Adelson, who is fervently against regulating gaming over the Internet.