Online Gambling Bill Introduced in Pennsylvania
On Monday, Pennsylvania State Representative Tina Davis (D – Levittown) introduced House Bill 1235 which would amend Title 4 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes to legalize and regulate internet gaming. HB 1235 has several co-sponsors already, including Representatives Thomas Caltagirone, Rosita Youngblood, Dom Costa, William Kortz, Vanessa Brown, RoseMarie Swanger, Mark Cohen, Ed Neilson, George Dunbar, John Galloway, and John Sabatina.
Davis already made it known that she would be introducing this bill, issuing a Memorandum in January. In the Memo, she discussed the fact that the neighboring state of Delaware had already enacted internet gambling laws and, at the time, another neighbor, New Jersey, was working on similar laws in an effort to compete with Pennsylvania’s gaming industry. Those, combined with possible federal legislation, made it important for her state to get going on internet gaming in order to keep its industry strong. She wrote:
…considering the nationwide efforts to legalize internet gaming, it is imperative that we maintain the integrity of our gaming industry amid inevitable federal preemption and competing states, as well as possible expansion of internet games through the privatization of our own State Lottery. A responsible internet gaming system must be created in order to protect Pennsylvanians and the success of the established gaming industry in the Commonwealth, which has generated more than $7 billion in state tax revenue, and created more than 16,000 jobs statewide.
The bill makes any slot machine licensee eligible for an “Internet Gaming Certificate,” or license. Thus, the market is essentially open to brick-and-mortar casinos. Players must be at least 21-years old and must reside in Pennsylvania. One interesting requirement is that players must register their accounts at the casino. Deposits can be made in a number of ways, including credit card, cash, check, money order, or electronic funds transfer, while withdrawals will be made via check or electronic funds transfer. Player to player transfers will be prohibited.
As to the licenses, there will be a one-time, $5 million fee, followed by a $500,000 renewal fee, which will happen every three years. Licensees will be taxed 28 percent of gross revenue, which will allocated as so: 55 percent to the State Lottery Fund for property tax relief for the elderly, 30 percent to the State Lottery Fund for subsidized transit service for the elderly, and 15 percent for the Pennsylvania Race Horse Development Fund.
While online poker would initially be of the intrastate variety, meaning players must reside in Pennsylvania, HB 1235 does allow for interstate or even international compacts, provided the gambling does not violate federal or state law.
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