Last week we reported on a bill on which the gaming oversight committee of the state house in Pennsylvania voted. This proposal only needs to pass a vote by the House and Senate and then be signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolfe. However, experts say that even once the law is passed it may take six months or more before we first see an online gambling site available. When New Jersey began accepting online gaming license applications in June 2013, it was not until the following November that the first Internet casino was launched. According to Marie Jiacopello Jones, a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP, “six months would be great” to see games up and running in Pennsylvania.
Doug Harbach, a gaming control Board spokesman, estimates that it will be at least nine months before any online gambling options become available. While the bill will allow each of the state’s casinos to offer Internet gambling, it will cost $5 million for a licensing fee as well as an additional $1 million fee from the contractor.
The executive director of the Poker Player’s Alliance, John Pappas, says that one of the most important aspects of the bill is that it will allow Amaya to operate within Pennsylvania. Amaya is the new holder of the PokerStars and Full Tilt brands, well known online poker companies that many would love to see back in the market.
According to Pappas, “a lot of players who used to play online back in the heyday would like to see a company like PokerStars back in the marketplace. Someone once told me that banning the current companies would be like offering coffee for the first time in the state but not allowing Starbucks to sell.”
With the new bill, both of these companies will have the option of opening online sites in Pennsylvania at a 14% tax rate. This is equal to the tax rate of the brick and mortar casinos in the area. Pappas also says that the state would require gambling site operators to use software and equipment that would guard against fraudulent activities.
With these options available, Pennsylvania will become a major player in the online gambling industry. Pennsylvania alone, with its 12.8 million residents, would nearly double the amount of online gamblers available who can legally gamble in the United States. To date, only New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada allow online gambling. It is likely that if this bill is passed in Pennsylvania after the six or more months it takes for an online site to become available, contracts can be made with these other states to facilitate cross-state online gambling.
Even though it may take a long time before Pennsylvanians see an online gambling site up and running, it will be well worth the wait. Currently, many Pennsylvania residents are already gambling online illegally on various unregulated sites. This bill would eventually allow Pennsylvania’s government to collect taxes on all online gambling within the state, which would be a huge boost to the state budget as well. Now, residents only need to wait and see how long it is before an online site becomes available.