PA State Senator Introduces Gambling Amendment Bill to Legalize Online Poker and More

Pennsylvania State Senator Edwin B. “Ted” Erickson (R-26), who currently serves as the Majority Policy Chairman responsible for gathering information as a means of determining the impact of Senate policy decisions, has taken another important step toward the legalization of Internet gambling in the Keystone State. Last week, the Republican Senator for Pennsylvania’s 26th District introduced a gambling amendment bill that aims to legalize online poker and possibly, other forms of Internet gambling in Pennsylvania.

Specifically, the bill stated that the legalization of online poker is the likeliest means of enhancing the benefits derived from regulated casino gaming. Although, there was no direct reference to the legalization of online slot and other forms of casino gaming, the bill reiterated the government’s present policy of authorizing gaming activities in the form of slot machines and casino table games including poker. This particular passage likewise pointed out that licensed operators must provide the appropriate level of experience in introducing a platform for interactive gaming that ensures player protection and the integrity of the games.

The Senator’s bill contains other provisions and definitions that include, but are not limited to the following:

• The term interactive game refers to any game offered through the use of communications technology, which allows a person to place wagers, utilizing money transmitted via electronic instrumentations such as wire, cable, radio, microwave, optics or computer data networks including the Internet and intranets.

Interactive gaming platform is defined as a combination of hardware and software created and used for managing, conducting and recording interactive games or the wagers related to those games approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB), being the designated regulatory body responsible for implementing and regulating interactive gaming within the Keystone State.

It also made mention of PGCB’s authority to grant Interactive gaming license that would allow the holder to offer games authorized for play, as well as accept bets associated with the authorized games.

One of the statements of the provision pertaining to the responsibility of licensed entities providing interactive gaming platform includes ensuring that the software, hardware, and Internet website remain under the licensees’ control and supervision. The proposed bill makes it mandatory for licensed entities to market the publicly available Internet facility or gaming portal under its own name and brand, and not under a third party brand.

For purposes of establishing the suitability for licensing of an Internet gambling operator seeking to secure a Pennsylvania license, the bill made a distinction between the operators who immediately ceased operations, from those who continued to defy the State and Federal laws particularly the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act. Accordingly, the latter group should not be rewarded with a license to operate as one of the state’s interactive gaming operators, or allow a licensee operator to use the assets of persons or entities that demonstrated unlawful gaming activity. Rewarding such entities with a gaming license would create unfair competition from those that opted to voluntarily cease and desist out of respect for the Federal and State laws.

There is also a passage that will allow persons located in Pennsylvania to participate in interactive poker being held in other cooperating U.S. states or jurisdictions, in which online poker is regulated and regarded as lawful.

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