Legal

Online Poker In Pennsylvania Back In The Senate’s Hands – Action Expected By Month’s End


A bill that would legalize online poker in Pennsylvania is moving back to the PA Senate.

The bill will also expand gambling a handful of other ways across the state.

The PA Senate passed the bill, which includes measures which will legalize and regulate online poker in Pennsylvania, PA online casinos, and expand other gambling operations across Pennsylvania, at the end of May.

Last week, the House of Representatives made a number of amendments. It then passed the bill itself, sending it back to the Senate for approval.

The tax rates change for PA online gambling

The most glaring changes are in regards to the proposed tax rate for online gambling operations. The Senate bill proposed a 54 percent tax rate on online slots and casino table games. It also proposed a 16 percent tax rate on online poker. The House amended the bill coming back to the Senate to include a 16 percent tax rate on online gambling across the board.

This doesn’t change a thing for the prospects of online poker in Pennsylvania.  However, tax rates for other casino games have remained a contentious issue.

Parx Casino, one of the two largest casino operations in the state, maintains that anything lower than the 54 percent tax rate land-based casinos pay on slot revenues would create cannibalization. However, other casino operators, including Penn National Gaming, claim it would be impossible to operate profitably with a tax rate that high on online casino operations.

Lawmakers in the state are split on the issue.

The biggest sticking point

However, taxes may not be the biggest sticking point. The House amended the bill to include the authorization of video gaming terminals in liquor licensed establishments across the state. The Senate had completely left VGTs out of its bill. VGTs are opposed by most casinos and industry stakeholders.

The Senate had also proposed separate gaming licenses, with both online casino and online poker licenses costing $5 million each. The House has proposed just one license with a licensing fee of $8 million.

Other differences between the House and Senate versions of this bill include daily fantasy sports taxes of 19 percent proposed by the House versus 12 percent proposed by the Senate.

The bill also authorizes a number of other gambling initiatives. These include:

  • Internet lottery sales.
  • Language fixing the land-based casino local share assessment deemed unconstitutional in 2016.
  • Tablet gaming at specific airports in the state.

What’s next for the PA gambling expansion bill

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 102-89 and will now likely move to a Senate committee before a full Senate vote. The bill may also be referred to a conference committee consisting of leaders of both the House and Senate before moving forward.

The hope is that legislators pass online poker in Pennsylvania and other gambling expansion legislation before the end of the 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.