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Online Gambling News From Pennsylvania And Massachusetts

By: Joan Peppin, Friday June 9th 2017
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Amid the more vociferous political din in the United States, the slow but steady movement to legalize online gambling by some of the states is going unnoticed. This news item puts in perspective recent action in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

Two weeks ago the Pennsylvania Senate passed HB 272, a bill that seeks to legalize certain online gambling verticals. On June 7 the House of Pennsylvania also passed the bill by a vote of 102 to 89. If enacted, the bill will legalize online gambling and daily fantasy sports, allow the state's lottery to sell tickets online and permit tablet gaming at certain airports. However, the bill was passed with some amendments. Now it will head back to the Senate to settle differences.

One of the main hurdles is the rate of tax on online gambling. The Senate put an unwieldy 54% tax rate for online slots and table games and a 16% tax rate for online poker. The House passed the bill with a uniform 16% tax rate for all forms of online gambling with a licensing fee of $8 million. The second issue is that the House bill allows for video gaming terminals at nongaming properties. This has been opposed by certain sections as being disastrous for the brick-and-mortar casino industry. Others point out that the proposal could generate over $400 million in tax revenue over the next five years for the state.

Massachusetts has introduced bills on online gambling, but these have not made progress. The Massachusetts Special Commission on Online Gaming, Fantasy Sports Gaming and Daily Fantasy Sports was created last year to review and consider all aspects of online gaming. The Commission met on Tuesday and looked at three options. The first was referred to as a gaming option that would create a structure with separate laws. The second was the omnibus approach in which some authority would be created to oversee all of online gambling. The third approach was to wait and watch how the bills would play out in the legislature. It was agreed by a majority of commission members that an omnibus approach may be best. This could set the course for online gambling in the state.

Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby said that there should be more substantial legislation, something "broad brushed, very clear in terms of values and parameters and regulatory criteria." A formal report from the Commission is due by 31 July. Any further pushes for legalization would have to be made in 2018.

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