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Pennsylvania Makes Headway In Online Gambling Legalisation

By: Fabian Rictor, Friday July 1st 2016
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The Pennsylvania House of Representatives approved by a 114-85 vote the gambling bill HB 2150 earlier this week. If passed in the Senate and signed by Governor Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania would likely become the fourth American state to legalize online gambling within its borders. HB 2150 seeks to authorize online casino games and poker, allow slot machines at off-track betting parlours and airports, and regulate daily fantasy sports. Last week the bill was rejected because of the video gaming terminal clause. The clause authorising VGTs in bars, private clubs and restaurants had to be removed before the bill could be passed.

John Payne, the Republican from Dauphin, who is the House Gaming Oversight Chairman, referred to the passing of the gambling bill as the first step towards safe interactive gaming. He said that the bill is comprehensive and fair. The Keystone state budget needed to be balanced and the public pension system needed to be kept solvent. Instead of asking the taxpayers to pay more of their hard-earned money, the Representatives thought it fit to regulate and tax online gambling. The bill estimates generating $266.5 million in additional revenues from operating license fees and tax revenues in 2016-17. The existing land casino operators will be allowed to partner with online gambling technology providers for an up-front fee of $8 million for a five-year license, with renewal fees of $250,000. The proposed tax rate is 16%, with 14% going to the state and 2% marked for economic development projects.

The social issues that are generally raised by opponents of online gambling would be taken care of. Players would have to be Pennsylvania residents who are over 21 years of age. They would have to register with the online casinos. The online casinos would be required to introduce provisions allowing players voluntarily limit bets and losses and self-impose a suspension upon reaching a certain loss limit. Payne pointed out that at present Pennsylvanians wager at off shore online casinos and run the risk of fraud and abuse. HB 2150 will safeguard children and problem gamblers along with regular consumers.

Pennsylvania's five race tracks and six airports would get up to 250 slot machines. The casinos would operate these facilities for a fee of $5 million for each facility. The daily fantasy sports operators would be able to offer games involving professional sports only to players over 18 years of age. There would be a 5% tax on all revenues and a five-year license would cost $50,000.

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