Pennsylvania edges closer to online gaming with new bill

Pennsylvania edges closer to online gaming with new bill

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Kim Ward is one of the state senators to back SB 900

Pennsylvania could become the biggest US state to legalise online gaming after a heavily backed bill aimed at regulating internet gambling was introduced.

SB 900 focuses on the licensing process behind slot machines in Pennsylvania, but also includes provisions related to the regulation of online gaming. As in New Jersey, the bill would allow licensed land-based casinos in the state to begin offering slot machines and table games online.

Although Pennsylvania, which has a population of 12.8 million, has seen a number of bills related to online gaming put forward in recent months, what makes SB 900 stand out is the level of support it has attracted from government figures in the state.

State Senators Kim Ward, Robert Tomlinson, Elder Vogel and Joseph Scarnati have all declared their backing for the new bill - which would make Pennsylvania the fourth US state to legalise some online gambling - with this support expected to grow as it moves through the legislative process.

The bill includes a proposed tax rate of 54 per cent on internet gaming revenue, while operators would be required to obtain an internet gaming permit (IGP) and separate licence from the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board in order to offer services in a regulated market.

An IGP would set operators back $10m (€8.8m) and would run for a five-year term, while a renewal fee of $1m would be required should the company wish to remain active in the Pennsylvania market. IGPs would be limited to entities that hold a table games certificate and a slot machine license.

Other details of the bill include the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board having the final say as to what games can be offered online, with the state regulatory body also having the ability to issue temporary regulations for online gambling ahead of full regulation.

Interestingly, SB 900 does not feature a ‘bad actor’ clause, which have become regular inclusions in other bills related to online gaming. Such a clause would ban operators that breached previous internet gambling laws from acquiring an IGP in Pennsylvania.

With confirmation of SB 900’s formal introduction, eyes will now turn to Senator Sean Wiley, who has also recently announced his intention to put forward an online gaming bill of his own. Although the full details of his bill are yet to be unveiled, it is understood that it would only legalise online poker, and be introduced no sooner than January 2017.

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