Wednesday April 29,2015 : PENNSYLVANIA GAMING COMMITTEE HEARS MORE ABOUT ONLINE GAMBLING (Update)
Mount Airey Casino hearing gathers more opinions and evidence on legalization.
The impartial and professional manner in which Pennsylvania's House Gaming Oversight Committee is assembling information on the possible legalization of online gambling in the state was again in evidence Tuesday when the committee held its second hearing this week at the Mount Airey Casino Resort in northeast Pennsylvania.
Our readers will recall that there are three hearings scheduled this week: one at the Legislature, one at the Mount Airey Casino and a third on Wednesday afternoon at the Mohegan Sun Pocono.
The Times Tribune reports that the highlight of the Mount Airey hearing was testimony from David Licht, of 888's All-American Poker Network, whose company has an online gambling partnership with Mount Airey should the pastime be legalised in the state.
Licht told the committee that state residents who want to gamble online can find numerous unregulated websites on which to play, but they did so at risk and the operators contributed nothing to state tax coffers.
“Unregulated online gaming is going on in front of us right now,” Licht told the committee. “The issue is not will we legalize it, it is will we protect customers and derive revenue from it.”
He went on to assure members of the committee that thanks to modern technological safeguards, the AAPN has not experienced problems in excluding the vulnerable and underaged, or in combating fraud or money laundering due to active financial tracking technology.
He explained that losses and bids are capped, and that trained customer service representatives monitor for signs of gaming addiction. Exclusion lists for problem gamblers are used, just as they are in land casinos, he said.
Licht also addressed the mistaken impression that online gambling would "cannibalise" the industry, taking custom away from land casinos.
Legal, online gambling would not cannibalise existing casinos, Licht asserted, giving as a practical example the experience in New Jersey, where 70 to 80 percent of a casino’s online gamblers are new casino customers that would not have been on the books if not for their interest in online action.
He admitted that ambitious revenue projections for the nascent New Jersey online gambling market had not been met, but explained that the targets were unrealistically high at the outset, and the speedy development of the market had been hampered by a divided media market, credit card company misunderstandings and failed transactions, and limits on online advertising.
Many people still think online gambling is illegal, and that is being addressed, he said, expressing the hope that the lessons learned would help avoid similar early hurdles in Pennsylvania.
The AAPN executive said that New Jersey’s current online revenue was about $140 million and Pennsylvania, with a 45 percent greater population, and a regulatory scheme informed by New Jersey’s experience, would be greater.
If the state used a full gambling suite and included a live dealer casino, the returns would be greater.
Committee member Rep. Tina Davis, who has introduced a legalization bill in the state Legislature, asked Licht about the decline of gambling in Atlantic City. Replying, Licht stressed that Atlantic City’s problems went back several years and had nothing to do with online gambling.
“If I were a [land] casino owner, I would want another platform to grow revenue and cross markets,” Licht concluded.