Last Thursday, the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee led by Committee Chairman Rep. John Payne (R-District 106) held a hearing to determine the legal framework of B649. The bill authored and introduced by House Gaming Committee Chairman Rep. John Payne himself, proposing the legalization of online gambling in the Keystone State.
The Committee hearing was held two days after the same Committee passed House Resolution 140, a bill encouraging PA’s federal representatives in US Congress to vote against House Resolution 707, which contains the Restoration of America’s Wire Act proposal introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).
Pennsylvania lawmakers heard testimonies not only from proponents and from oppositionists of Internet-based gambling, but also from land-based casino operators, technology experts, and regulators actually involved in the online gambling industry already existing in the States of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. The hearing provided clear insight on how advancements in technology will make it possible for the state, to keep regulated online gambling within the confines of its jurisdiction.
The most impressive testimony came from Lindsay Slater of GeoComply, who backed her expert opinion with an actual demonstration of how geo-location verification technology works. Using her company’s geo-location software, Ms. Slater demonstrated the efficiency and accuracy of the technology by directing the software’s capability to a coffee shop in New Jersey.
She showed how in real time, the system was able to detect two different coffee shop customers engaged in online gambling while inside an NJ commercial establishment. She went further by showing the software’s capability to detect from which part of the commercial building the players logged in.
The most sensible argument in favor of online gambling came from Kevin Mullaly, VP of Government Relations at Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), a company well-known for providing testing and certification services to the gambling industry. He stated that Internet-based gambling is plainly a modern method of delivering gaming content found in conventional land-based casinos granted with authorization to offer them as such. Mr. Mullaly explained that the security controls being used by regulated online gambling sites are in no way different from those being used by banks, and other industries for their online transactions.
The weakest pronouncements came from Andy Abboud, one of the most prominent proponents of the RAWA movement, who attended the hearing primarily as representative of Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Bethlehem in Pennsylvania.
Mr. Abboud attracted the most attention, for failing to defend his anti-online gambling stance. Sands Bethlehem’s reputation for being repeatedly fined by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for allowing underage gambling, could not substantiate Mr. Abboud’s usual rhetoric on how online gambling, pose as threat to minors. In fact, he refused to answer Representative Tina Davis’s (D- District 141) queries about his casino company’s failure to address such issue.
Mr. Abboud also faltered in providing answers to questions about the mobile gaming and e-betting offering of Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas-based The Venetian. Instead of giving support to Adelson’s and the RAWA camp’s strong skepticism for the effectiveness of geo-location technology, Mr. Abboud came to a point of admitting during the hearing that his company relied on technology, to keep mobile gambling confined within The Venetian’s casino premises.
The overall impression is that the PA hearing gave hepful views that enhance the possibility of future online gambling expansion in Pennsylvania.