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Pennsylvania Closer to Online Gambling

by Glenn Baird - June 12, 2017

Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives have passed a bill that could legalise online gambling in the state.
The bill was passed up to the House of Representatives with little opposition and was met there with vote of 102-89 in favour.

Yet, of course, this recent line of red tape still hasn’t reached the top of the tree, with the Senate of Pennsylvania still to debate and suggest amendments to the bill. However, the matter could be decided as early as the 19th of June with Rep. George Dunbar, as reported by the Online Poker Report, claiming that “It won’t be too long, as we have a budget to get done.”

He goes on to say, “Gaming isn’t the most important part of it, but it is an important part. I’m sure the Senate is going to be taking it up next week, and I’m also sure it’s not going to get voted on as is. There will be some changes to it. I hope the changes will be minimal.”

One particular stumbling block will be the bill’s call for video gaming terminals to be introduced to pubs and bars in the state. This is likely to be rejected by the Senate and is a surprise addition given controversies surrounding VTGs. Their inclusion could give the Senate the grounds in need to throw out the entire bill, with some cynics arguing that it was added for precisely that reason. Given the need for a quick turnaround, the Senate may well find that the time required to elicit productive debate is simply not available and the quickest road to conclusion could be reject the bill completely.

Another sticking point will be the rate of tax. The Senate had originally proposed a high rate of tax. The suggested 54% plus huge licence fees had to be reduced by the House of Representatives but it is unlikely that their negotiated 16% will be agreed.

Dunbar himself has argued that, “You can’t tax at a 54-percent rate because casinos won’t be able to grab them and bring them into the brick and mortar.” He is emphasising the fact that online casinos will have to spend a lot of money advertising their brand before they can turn any profit. A tax rate of 54% would make the entire operation impossible.

All that we can be sure about is that by the start of next week a decision will be made that could either pave the way for online gambling in Pennsylvania or end speculation around it completely.