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Online Poker Legislation Could Pass The Pennsylvania Senate Next Week


The Pennsylvania Senate will be moving ahead with legislation seeking to legalize and regulate online poker this coming week. This according to the Chair of the Senate’s Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee.

Sen. Mario Scavello told Online Poker Report’s Matthew Kredell that online poker with a tax rate of 16 percent will be included in Bill H 271 when it hits the Senate floor this week.

A PA gambling expansion catch-all

The bill originally included a plan to authorize tablet gaming at airports in the state. The Pennsylvania House passed it last month. However, the plan was to allow the Senate to amend it to include other gambling expansion initiatives it was interested in passing. Essentially, H 271 was designed to be a comprehensive gambling expansion bill.

The bill was moved to the Senate floor last month, but immediately sent back to the CERD committee.

Now, in addition to online poker, Scavello is saying it will include a plan to offer 12 online gaming licenses to existing land-based casinos in PA. He says it will also include a provision to open the market to other businesses if the casinos don’t bite.

Online gambling tax rates still an issue

Table games will likely carry a 16 percent tax rate, with slots at 54 percent. This is the same rate as land-based casinos in the state.

Scavello says the state is looking to issue just 12 licenses total. These would include the operation of casino games and poker in Pennsylvania.

Scavello told Kredell:

“My preference is 12 licenses – one license for both poker and casino – and my hope is casinos will buy and operate them all. We envision that we will have all licenses filled, and if it’s not by some of the land-based casinos then we might have to get some other companies who want to purchase a license. Not that we want to see that, but if no casinos take it …”

Tax parity a ‘silly notion’

Last week Penn National Gaming’s SVP of Public Affairs Eric Schippers said the idea of tax parity between land-based slots and online casinos was a “silly notion.” He also said he was trying to convince Pennsylvania lawmakers to give up on it. During the company’s quarterly earnings call, Schippers also said “no one will sign up for it” if it went ahead.

However, Scavello claims charging equal tax rates for internet gaming operations and their brick and mortar counterparts will protect against cannibalization. In other words, the government won’t lose tax revenue if gamblers were to move from land-based to online casinos charging the same rates.

Tax rates on Pennsylvania casinos are the highest in the country.

The iGaming debate continues

Scavello says the actual tax rate for online slots and table games is still up for discussion. He said he expects they will be finalized Monday. However, he said the online poker numbers are set in stone.

A vote on the legislation is expected to happen Tuesday.

Even if the Senate passes the bill, the House could amend the legislation and the tax rates. Once the House passed the bill, it would move on to the Gov. Tom Wolf for approval.

Photo by Harvey BarrisonCC BY-SA 2.0


Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.