Pennsylvania will become the 4th state to legalize online poker and online casino games, joining the ranks of New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada.
After just a few days of deliberating over a measure that would legalize online gambling in his state, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed the measure known as H 271 into law on Monday.
This particular bill, which in actuality is part of a much larger and complex package aimed at balancing the state’s enormous $2+ billion deficit, legalizes not just online poker in Pennsylvania, but also online casino games, daily fantasy sports and a variety of other gambling options within state borders.
Pennsylvania, which is already the 2nd-largest commercial casino state in the country, now joins its east coast neighbors New Jersey and Delaware as one of the few that allow legal online gaming to its residents.
Nevada also legalized their online gambling initiatives a few years ago, one which whose prospects have only been bolstered by its already booming brick and mortar casinos that sit along the Las Vegas Strip. PA is hoping to cash in on the iGaming craze, as revenues in states like New Jersey have seen a solid uptick throughout 2017 and will look to grow even larger in the years ahead.
Why is H 271 So Important to the State of Pennsylvania?
The bill was something that has been discussed and thrown around by legislators for years, as rumors swirled around the gaming industry that Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York and California were the leading candidates to approve legal online gambling statutes in their respective states. The fact that Pennsylvania already has great revenues coming in from land-based casinos and the state lottery made the decision to pass this bill a pretty simple one.
It also did not hurt that Pennsylvania is up to its ears in debt, with its deficit reaching frightening levels in the last few years. H 271’s passage will most likely trigger a large influx of cash from online casino licenses alone, which will cost at least $10 million per license ($7.5 million initial bid price + a table games certificate at $2.5 million).
On top of all that, legislators and lawmakers predict a possible $200+ million windfall of new annual revenues from this online gambling measure moving forward. Potential revenues coming in from the aforementioned online licenses could eclipse $100 million, depending on how many casinos decide to jump in right away on offering virtual games to residents here.
Everything from online casino license fees to standard taxation rates for online poker, casino table games, daily fantasy sports and the virtual gaming terminals (“VGT’s”) already in place at hundreds of locations throughout the state should keep a steady stream of cash flowing into the government’s treasury for many years to come.
Cliffs Notes Version of What This Bill Entails
In essence, H 271 covers hundreds and hundreds of pages regarding the online gaming portion of the measure. Below you will find a quick cliff notes version of “what’s what” in the bill.
- Legalizes online poker, as well as table games and online slots, provided that all the proper licenses are attained ($10 million per license).
- Legalizes DFS aka Daily Fantasy Sports, which doesn’t mean too much other than it allows for more accurate taxation on players who play DFS games.
- Allows PA to offer sports betting to its residents if federal statutes on sports betting ever change (this is something New Jersey is currently battling in court at the time of the publication of this article).
- The measure allows for interactive gambling parlors to be installed in 8 airports within the state, something that only Nevada and Puerto Rico allow.
- Truck stops can operate 5 slot machine-style games – also called virtual gaming terminals (VGT’s).
- Satellite casinos can now be built and operated statewide.
- Online slot revenue will be taxed at a whopping 54% rate, with online table games and poker being hit with a 16% tax rate.
All in all, the full rollout of online gambling expansion in Pennsylvania will probably occur in mid-2018. The reason for this is because after the PA Gaming Control Board sets up all the proper regulations and looks over all the license applications, there are still going to be windows of up to 6 months to allow for everything to be reviewed, tested and launched to the public.