Sunday February 17,2013 : PENNSYLVANIA ONLINE GAMBLING BILL IMMINENT?
Rep. Tina Davis says she may introduce legalization bill next week
Pennsylvanian Representative Tina Davis has confirmed speculation last week that she is about to move on the introduction of an intrastate online gambling bill, perhaps as soon as next week.
Speaking to the publication TribLive, Rep. Davis said that the bill would go first to the state House, and acknowledged that it could face a tough passage in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Davis' bill has been in preparation since last year, and she predicts that Pennsylvanians will be able to gamble online at some point.
Davis, whose district is home to the Parx casino near Philadelphia, pointed out that Pennsylvania has surpassed New Jersey as the country's No. 2 gambling state and says it must stay competitive.
“Considering the nationwide efforts to legalise Internet gaming, it is imperative that we maintain the integrity of our gaming industry amid inevitable federal pre-emption and competing states, as well as possible expansion of Internet games through the privatization of our own state lottery,” she said.
Davis noted that the Pennsylvanian Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, has questioned the appointment by Governor Tom Corbett of UK lottery operator Camelot to run the state lottery, but opined that this would not impact the timing of her online gambling initiative.
Initially, the Davis proposal would permit only online poker and blackjack in Pennsylvania, along with any variations of those games played in existing casinos.
“We tried to determine what the most popular types of online games there were out there, but we also didn't want to discourage folks from going to the [land] casinos,” she says. “We tried to strike a balance.”
Only companies that already hold Pennsylvania slot and table game licenses would be eligible for an online licence, according to the proposal. The online games would be run through the land casinos' websites, and the state Gaming Control Board would inspect and approve software and devices for online games, in the same way that it does with slot machines and table-game equipment at traditional casinos.
Before players could wager online, they would have to set up an account through one of the licensed facilities. Players would have to provide an active banking account to be linked with their gambling account; casinos would not be allowed to offer credit to online players. Players would have to sign an agreement prohibiting them from letting others use their accounts.
In-person registration will help guard against minors or gamblers on the state's self-exclusion list being able to access games online, Davis says.
The proposed cost of an online licence would be $16.5 million, the same as the table-game licence fee, and the state's tax rate would be 45 percent, according to Davis, although she expects that legislative debate could demand changes in both licensing fee and tax rate.
The state gets 55 percent of existing casino slot machine revenue in taxes; the state and local tax on table-game revenue totals 14 percent.
“There is an urgency to get this done, but I am not naive to believe that it will happen overnight,” Davis concluded.