In yet another recent development in the PA online gambling debate, it looks as if H 271 has enough steam to pass legislation and legalize online poker and fantasy sports in the state.
For some time now, the state of Pennsylvania has been considered the next in line to pass online gambling legislation. For years, we have watched as Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada break down barriers when it came to legal online gambling within their respective state boundaries. Well, after almost 5 years of up’s, down’s and other legislative hurdles, it looks like online gambling is indeed coming to Pennsylvania.
Last Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee voted 17 to 1 to pass the gaming package in an amended form to the bill known as H 271. Once it moved past that committee, it was approved by the State Senate with a vote of 31 to 19. The bill then moved on to the House, with a vote taking place on Thursday to officially pass the measure with a 109 to 72 vote in favor of.
As of now, the bill sits on the desk of Governor Tom Wolf, awaiting his signature.
It is expected that Wolf will sign the bill into law. He can choose to veto or do nothing as well. If Wolf does nothing, then the bill will automatically become law due to inaction. However, it seems unlikely that this bill will be vetoed in its current form, which definitely benefits the state in terms of future annual tax revenues.
What Exactly Does H 271 Entail?
The gaming package attached to H 271 includes a great deal of information. The bill itself is actually 970 pages long and covers a long list of gambling expansions for the state.
To begin, the bill will regulate daily fantasy sports as well as provide regulation of sports betting, if the activity were to be legalized from a federal standpoint. Currently, New Jersey is set to have a case heard by the US Supreme Court on this very subject, which would be a monumental decision should the court rule in favor of the state.
The iGaming package also provides the state with the ability to sell lottery products online. Truck stops will be allowed to provide video gaming terminals, plus airports can now offer table games in designated areas. As many as ten satellite casinos can be created, while gaming venues with Category 3 licensing will be able to increase the number of slots they offer as well as no longer pay a membership fee, if a one-time fee is paid.
The most important part of the bill, though, will of course be the legalization of online poker and online casinos within state lines. Like New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware before them, Pennsylvania will now be able to offer online poker to all of its residents. This also applies to online casino games, slots and table games. There has been no clarification on whether PA will join the aforementioned 3 states in sharing player traffic, which is something that just recently occurred in the past several months.
Other Important Financial Details Regarding H 271
The state of Pennsylvania currently has twelve casinos in operation. Each of these license holders would be given the first opportunity to obtain licensing to offer online gambling to residents in PA. The state will offer poker, slots and table games online for real money play. Each iGaming license will cost $10 million to acquire.
Once a 90-day time frame is up, licensees will be able to pay $4 million each for a separate license. If any licenses remain after that, the state will be able to issue a license to an entity outside of the existing facilities. For the most part, it would be assumed that everyone will want to get in on the action, perhaps except the Sands Bethlehem as it has ties to Sheldon Adelson, who has never been shy regarding his hatred of the online gaming debate in the US.
As far as taxes are concerned, the slot games will be taxed at 54%, while poker and table games will be taxed at 16% each. Since this will be recurring revenue for the state, Pennsylvania will stand to make tens of millions in added revenue annually, with that number figuring to rise a solid amount past 2020.
For now, we all will be waiting to see if Wolf signs the measure. Wolf has shown support for online gaming in the past and the money is much-needed to meet the state’s huge budget shortfall of $2 billion. It would not be surprising to see Wolf sign the bill, which will FINALLY see Pennsylvania become the 4th state in the US to offer online gambling for real money!