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Pennsylvania Contemplates Legalizing Online Gambling

By: Joe Valentino, Monday February 18th 2013
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Pennsylvania is the next American state that has given the call for legalization of intrastate online gambling. The legislator pursuing this initiative is Representative Tina Davis. Davis is likely to introduce the required legislation in the state House possibly next week. Speaking to the publication TribLive, Representative Davis said that it will not be easy to get the online gambling bill passed in the Republican controlled House. Davis has been working on this bill since last year.
Davis is not new to gambling. She hails from the district that is home to the Parx Casino. Pennsylvania has overtaken New Jersey as America’s No. 2 gambling state. She pointed that a number of states were making efforts to legalize online gambling. Also at some point of time federally regulated online gambling would become inevitable. Therefore Pennsylvania will have to expand into Internet gaming and privatize its state lottery in order to remain competitive.

The Pennsylvania online gambling proposal intends to start with only online poker and blackjack, along with any variations of those games played in existing casinos. Davis said, “We tried to determine what the most popular types of online games there were out there, but we also didn’t want to discourage folks from going to the land casinos, she says. We tried to strike a balance.” The proposal has certain similarities with the one in New Jersey. Only gambling operators that already hold Pennsylvania slot and table game licenses would be eligible for an online gambling license. The online games would be available through the land casinos’ web sites. The state Gaming Control Board, which oversees land casino gambling equipment, would inspect and approve software and systems for online casino games.

Potential players would have to set up an account through one of the licensed facilities. They would have to furnish an active bank account to be linked with their gambling account. Players would be prohibited from letting others use their accounts. Only then would they be able to wager online. The casinos would not be allowed to offer credit to online players. The player registration will have to be done in-person. This will prevent minors and gamblers on the state’s self-exclusion list being allowed to gamble online.

The proposed cost of an online license would be $16.5 million, which is the same as the table-game license fee. The proposed tax rate would be 45%. In comparison the state gets 55% land casinos slot-machine revenue in taxes and the total tax rate on table-game revenue is 14%. Davis is however open to changes in both through legislative debate. Davis concluded the interview by stating that there is an urgency to legalize online gambling, though she does not expect it will happen overnight.

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