Last Wednesday. PA State Republican Representative John Payne (R-106th District) introduced to the House Committee on Gaming Oversight, House Bill 649, a proposal add a chapter to the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes under Amusement Section, an act legislating the authorization of Interactive Gaming within the State of Pennsylvania. The Republican Representative, who is is currently the incumbent Chairman of the House Gaming Oversight, has in fact scheduled a hearing on online gambling in the General Assembly on April 16, 2014.
Prior to his introduction of HB 649, Rep. Payne sent a heads up memo regarding plans to introduce the bill, explaining the rationale and key elements of the proposed legislation. He wrote that advancements in technology and latest legal decisions have made it possible for the nearby states to enact laws and policies for the legalization of Internet-based gaming. He asserts that based on a study furnished by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, iGaming is a large fresh source of revenue from which the State of Pennsylvania could derive financial benefits.
Aside from the need to help the state’s casino industry in maintaining its competitiveness, Rep. Payne also mentioned the necessity of building a strong framework that would assist in preventing illegal online gambling and in strengthening the consumer protection measures in place in the Keystone State.
He and 16 other State Representatives, recommends among other things, licensing fees of $5,000,000 for every gaming license, and the imposition of 14 percent tax on all gross gaming turnovers.
Under HB 649, the offering of authorized interactive games in the form of slot machine games, and casino table games including poker, will be conducted under Pennsylvania’s current gaming licensees. The bill’s provisions include a policy that ties the interactive gaming vendors’ ability to furnish its gaming platform within the state, to the status of the license held by the entity to which the vendor provides the interactive products and services.
Under the bill, an iGaming firm who intends to participate in the State’s Internet gambling industry once the law has been enacted must submit an organizational chart that establishes the vendor applicant’s association with the individual who possesses a gaming license approved and issued by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). All applications and documentations must be submitted to the PGCB, being the designated regulatory body that will be tasked to oversee and regulate interactive gaming within the State.
The Bill also includes provisions that would allow Pennsylvania players as well as those located in jurisdictions that have negotiated an Interactive Agreement with the government of Pennsylvania, to place wagers in PA and in the jurisdictions where an Interactive Agreement has been compacted. The bill clarifies that Interactive Agreements shall be negotiated and entered into with one or more U.S. jurisdictions or territories that authorize Internet-based gambling.
Ron Baumann, the Gen. Manager at Harrah’s in Chester, Philadelphia stated in an interview that they would welcome the off-site Internet gaming proposal being put forward, as his company believes that it has certain potentials in enhancing their casino’s overall revenues.
Parx Casino Chairman Bob Green expressed a more cautious view stating that if interactive gaming is to be authorized, it is important that it must be done properly. He said that the legislation’s first priority should be to protect the land-based casino by integrating online gambling in PA’s existing casino industry. Mr. Green added that interactive gaming should serve as an extended offer of service available to Pennsylvania-located customer base.