Several states in the US have been considering expanding into the online gaming industry. Players want to see gaming options made available and legislators see the potential for revenues from the activity. In the United States, only Delaware, New Jersey and Nevada offer some form of online gaming. Pennsylvania seems to be the next state in the running to offer online gaming, though the state has been trying for years to see legislation on the subject passed into law.
The state seems to be inching closer to becoming the next state to offer online gambling. Lawmakers have been looking at various legislation for close to three years running, since debates on the subject first began in 2013. Back then, Representative Tina Davis introduced a bill to see an expansion into online gaming. The bill was not passed but gave way to discussions which helped to broach the subject of online gaming.
In late 2013, the Senate of Pennsylvania announced they would pay for a study to take place on the subject of iGaming. The current condition of the gambling industry was to be covered as well as the future viability of the subject. Industry insiders felt the study was actually completed to determine if online gaming would affect land based gaming facilities including effects on tax revenues and employment. The conclusion was that online gaming would be a major form of tax revenues for Pennsylvania.
Efforts were not very strong in 2014 but 2015 saw the introduction of online gaming legislation as well as discussions. Representative John Payne became a major player in introducing legislation and discussing the subject. As the Chairman of the Gaming Oversight Committee, Payne hosted hearings to discuss online gaming and how it could benefit the state. In February of last year, Payne and Nick Kotick, the co-chairman of the committee, presented a new bill. HB 649 was created to see online gaming come to fruition in the state.
The legislation brought about several discussions and hearings on the subject and four additional proposals were created to see online gaming be legalized and regulated. SB 900 was introduced in the Senate and was a bill for omnibus gaming reform. However the gaming tax was way too high, at 54% and quickly fell to the wayside.
Payne’s bill became the popular choice and over the year, amendments were made to change the measure into an omnibus gaming reform option. The bill was then seen as a way to help the budget deficit of the state but was never passed into law. Despite the non-passage of the measure in 2015, many feel the legislation will pass this year. Payne feels that his measure will be considered in the spring and will be taken from the budget process of the state. This way, the measure will only be concerned with iGaming.
Yet there are still others who feel that online gaming could be a way for the state to solve the budget impasse. Representative Steven Mentzer stated recently that an increase in personal income tax, tobacco tax, sales tax and expansion as well as gambling expansion would help to fund the budget of the state.
The state is also looking at how they can keep gambling revenues into the state. With other states beginning to offer casino gaming and online options, players are traveling outside of the state. To stay competitive, Pennsylvania needs to stay on track and on top of the latest trends in gaming, which includes online gambling options. It will be interesting to see how the state moves forward with their gaming industry and if online gambling legislation will be passed in 2016.