Poker News

In the battle regarding online poker and casino gaming, the targets of legislation have traditionally been the companies and organizations that provide the outlet. The UIGEA of 2006 targeted the banks and the Wire Act of 1961 targeted the operators (the state of Washington was one of the few exceptions in making playing online poker a felony crime in the mid-2000s). Now a Pennsylvania lawmaker wants to take the attack against those who play the game in addition to those who provide the platforms.

According to several outlets, including, Pennsylvania State Representative Mario Scavello is drafting a plan (which may become a bill) that would criminalize playing online poker and casino gaming in the state. “Online gambling is best described as the Wild West,” Scavello stated as his reasoning for proposing the strict regulations. “Online, there’s no one around to keep an eye on someone who doesn’t know when to stop.”

Under Scavello’s plan, first offenders would face a summary offense (a judgment without a jury trial or indictment) that could net a potential $300 fine and/or up to 90 days in jail. A second violation of the law would be entered as a misdemeanor that could earn the offender a $2500 fine and/or up to a year in jail.

“I believe that if you hit people in their wallets, we can start to crack down on the lawbreakers,” Scavello said. Current Pennsylvania law holds that it is illegal to play poker or casino games online, but do not have any punishment for those who do.

The battling factions in the ongoing online gaming wars have sounded off on Scavello’s proposal. The Sheldon Adelson-led Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling immediately sounded off in support of Scavello’s proposal, releasing a statement that called attacking the players who partake of online gambling and poker “a step in the right direction.” The CSIG’s leadership – former New York governor George Pataki, former Arkansas senator Blanche Lincoln and former Denver mayor Wellington Webb – said in their statement, “We call on the Pennsylvania legislature to vote in favor of this bill and send a powerful message that online gaming has no place in American society.”

The Poker Players Alliance is recognizing the latest charge by anti-gaming zealots and is calling its membership to action. Rich Muny, the vice president of player relations for the PPA, spoke out on the issue through the PPA’s weekly update and noted the 39 organizations that have sided with the CSIG (Muny cited these groups in saying, “It is largely the same “faith and family” groups who have always opposed us”). Muny continued on by saying, “This is not the first time Adelson has used a scorched earth policy to try to achieve his aims…with Adelson seeing a need to fight harder, it just means the PPA and the poker community will continue fighting harder.”

The American Gaming Association, the land-based casino organization that supports federal regulation of online gaming, has not made any statements regarding the proposed legislation in Pennsylvania. They have created a counter-group against the CSIG, the Coalition for Consumer and Online Protection, which has such powerful figures as former California Representative Mary Bono and former Ohio Representative Mike Oxley onboard. At this time, however, the CCOP does not have an active website to help inform constituents.

The AGA has also enlisted the aid of President Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, to help in lobbying for the cause.

Currently Pennsylvania is studying expansion of gaming in the state that would include online play. After passing slot machine regulations in 2004 and table games in 2010, further expansion of gaming in the state would help to alleviate long-term deficits in the government. With 2014 a key election year, however, it is not expected that any new legislation would pass through the Pennsylvania legislature and it is unknown how much support there would be for criminalizing the play of Keystone State residents.

One Comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    Watch out for the real criminals in the state of PA…..the ones who enjoy playing poker from the comfort of their own homes. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with a person going to the local casino and losing their house but because the state isn’t getting their piece of the action,they want to punish the players. Why try to take away something that people enjoy doing? Why don’t you regulate it and make it safer for the people who do want to play. That way you are getting your cut and everyone is happy.

    I really don’t understand how they could possibly enforce the law against individual players. Search Warrants for player accounts and IP addresses for a summary offense? Sounds like a waste of law enforcement resources if you ask me. And even if it is possible, if someone loses a lot of money playing online lets do something to help them overcome their habit– fine them $300 on top of the amount they already lost. That will not deter anyone. A gambler is a gambler.

    The State Reps are trying to take away something that poker players enjoy doing. Their is going to be domino effect when other states realize the revenue being generated by online poker/gambling in New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. The internet is everything these days but our politicians don’t seem to see it that way. I hope PA politicians realize that and regulate it before we are left in the dust by the other states who decide that Online Gambling is for them.

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