Pennsylvania Lawmakers Consider Making Online Poker And iGaming A Crime
Pennsylvania lawmakers are in the midst of considering three separate bills that would all legalize and regulate online poker, online casinos, and daily fantasy sports.
However, a fourth bill has now been introduced to the House of Representatives looking to make it all illegal.
HB 801 would essentially prohibit and criminalize online gambling in Pennsylvania, including online poker.
Language in the bill reads, “No individual or entity shall solicit, invite, collect or accept cash or any other form of currency through the Internet for the purposes of wagering or betting. No individual or entity shall organize, or cause to be organized, any type of gambling event that is held over the Internet.”
iGaming fines considered
If the bill were to become law, the penalty for violating it would be $300 for a first offense. The fines go up to $600 and/or up to three days in jail for a second offense. Any further violations would represent a third degree misdemeanor.
The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Thomas Murt. Plus, co-sponsors include Reps. Matthew Baker, Robert Kauffman, Craig Staats, and Will Tallman.
The bill hit the House floor in the wake of a joint hearing of the House Gaming Oversight Committee and the Senate Community Economic & Recreational Development Committee earlier this month.
The hearing was held to discuss gaming expansion, and in particular, the prospect of legal and regulated online gaming in the state.
Legal and regulated online gambling in PA
In the meantime, Pennsylvania lawmakers are already considering three bills that would actually legalize and regulate iGaming.
These bills include:
SB 477 and HB 392 are identical bills. SB 524 was the latest to be introduced and includes some bigger price tags. Major differences include:
- 25 percent tax rate versus 14 percent
- $10 million licensing fee versus $8 million
- $5 million industry vendor fee versus $2 million
Former state representative now Sen. Mario Scavello proposed similar anti-online gaming legislation in 2014. Scavello’s bill received 16 cosponsors. However, lawmakers ultimately abandoned the proposal.
Lawmakers debate PA online gambling tax rate
Clearly, Pennsylvania lawmakers are a lot closer to passing iGaming legislation that would open up a legal and regulated online gaming market, as opposed making it illegal altogether.
The debate currently centers on tax rates and licensing fees more than prohibiting and criminalizing online gambling. This is despite the recent introduction of HB 801.
Currently, Pennsylvania’s 12 brick and mortar casinos pay a 16 percent tax on table games. However, a 54 percent tax rate on slot machines in the state help make Pennsylvania’s overall casino tax rates the highest in the country.
The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board expects these land-based casinos to generate approximately $1.4 billion in tax revenue annually.
Ten of 12 PA casinos behind iGaming
Currently 10 of 12 brick and mortar casinos in the state support the introduction of legal and regulated online gaming, including online poker.
Parx, the state’s largest casino in terms of gross revenue, is against the idea. Parx opposes the proposed tax rates in SB 477 and HB 392, amongst other concerns.
Representatives from the casino told the joint hearing earlier this month that lower tax rates on online gambling operations would aid in the cannibalization of the existing land-based casino industry.