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PA Senate Passes Online Poker, Comprehensive Gaming Expansion Bill


Pennsylvania took a giant leap towards legal and regulated online poker and casino games last week.

In fact, the PA Senate passed a bill including measures which will legalize and regulate online poker in Pennsylvania, PA online casinos, and expand other gambling operations across Pennsylvania.

Online gambling initiatives approved

H 271 passed by a margin of 38-12 in the Senate. Now, the bill will move to the House of Representatives. A number of amendments are expected to be made there next month.

The bill authorizes several online gambling initiatives. These include:

  • Online poker
  • Online casinos
  • Internet lottery sales
  • Daily fantasy sports

It also includes language fixing the land-based casino local share assessment deemed unconstitutional last year. This is how tax revenue had previously been distributed to jurisdictions hosting Pennsylvania’s 12 land-based casinos.

Plus, the bill also authorizes tablet gaming at specific airports in the state.

How online gambling will operate in PA

The bill includes a number of specifics regarding how the proposed licensed and regulated online gambling industry in the state would operate. These include:

  • Taxing online poker sites at a rate of 16 percent.
  • Taxing slot machine and table game revenue at a rate of 54 percent.
  • Charging initial licensing fees of $5 million each for online poker and casino operators or $10 million total for those that want both.
  • Offering 12 online poker and 12 casino operators licenses, first to the 12 current gaming licensee casinos in the state.
  • Charging the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board with overseeing online gambling regulation.

Online gaming tax rates remain an issue

Tax rates have been a major issue with online gaming legislation in Pennsylvania so far. In fact, some land-based casino operators have said rates as high as those passed by the Senate this week would be a non-starter for the industry.

The House is expected to consider lowering these rates and making several other amendments to the legislation.

In fact, state Rep. George Dunbar told Online Poker Report’s Matthew Kredell that both the licensing fees for online poker operators and tax rates for online casino operations would likely be lowered before the House passes the bill.

Next steps for PA iGaming

The legislation would then come back to the Senate for approval before moving on to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office.

This bill started in the House with only a measure to approve tablet gaming at airports included. However, the goal was to make it a comprehensive gambling expansion bill. The idea was for the Senate to include all online and land-based gambling initiatives it was interested in passing before sending it back to the House.

Now, the bill could become law, and legal and regulated online poker a reality in Pennsylvania, as early as next month.


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.