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Pennsylvania Senate to Take a Concerted Look at Internet Gambling

Pennsylvania Senate to Take a Concerted Look at Internet GamblingSenators from Pennsylvania have agreed to study the “current condition and future viability” of online gaming within the state.

The prospect of online gambling coming to Pennsylvania took a turn for the better when state Senators nearly unanimously agreed to study the state of online gambling. In total, 47 of the state’s 50 senators voted in favor of Senate Resolution 273, which received a 14-0 vote from the Senate Committee for Community, Economic and Recreational Development last Tuesday.

Before a piece of iGaming legislation can be forged, the study must first be finished by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. Once completed, a recommendation for legislation can be proposed.

Pennsylvania’s exploration of the iGaming market comes as little surprise. Back in June, House Committee on Gaming Oversight Chair, Tina Pickett, announced a wait-and-see approach regarding iGaming, stating that legislators would want to examine the effects of iGaming on brick and mortar casino revenues. In other words, they were waiting for New Jersey to launch its own iGaming operation.

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Now that that has happened, Pennsylvania is more willing to explore its own options. Competition from Ohio, New York and Maryland, which have opened or are in the process of adding commercial casinos, and New Jersey’s iGaming market, have also put pressure on Pennsylvania officials to act more aggressively.

Pennsylvania’s brick and mortar casino business is thriving. Whereas a few short years ago, all Pennsylvania offered were slots and electronic table games, these days the state boasts 12 commercial casinos, with a 13th on the way. Revenues from popular casinos that reside close to the New Jersey border (Parx and Sands) are significant enough to warrant concern from Atlantic City casinos.

With that said, primary sponsor Joseph B. Scarnati III has exhibited his concern that the aforementioned competition from neighboring states is causing revenues to diminish. An iGaming offering could certainly help to alleviate these concerns, as Pennsylvania boasts nearly 13 million – 4 million more than New Jersey and more than enough to sustain a viable online poker market, and iGaming industry in general.

If the study results in a recommendation to the General Assembly by the cutoff date of May 1, 2014, a proposal could be considered for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

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