Lawmakers are mostly positive that the Pennsylvania online gambling bill of Representative John Payne will be included in the fiscal budget of 2016-17.
The Pennsylvania Legislature is considering huge reforms to state gambling laws. One of those is the legalization of online gambling in Pennsylvania, proposed in HB 649. US gambling news report that the bill is likely to move forward, as the state is struggling with a USD 1,8 billion budget deficit.
HB 649 highlights that through the internet millions of people worldwide have easy access to gambling. With no legislation and regulation, most of them gamble through “unregulated offshore gambling operations.” The bill recognizes that in Pennsylvania, online gambling “has been conducted without oversight, regulation or enforcement,”, endangering the ”health, welfare, and safety” of the citizens.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, prohibits interstate online gambling. However, it includes an exception ”that permits individual states to create a regulatory framework to govern intrastate internet or interactive gambling”. Therefore, Pennsylvania is free to legalize online gambling within its state borders.
The Pennsylvania online gambling bill would impose huge tax rates on casinos
If HB 649 is signed into law, the state would issue licenses to the existing land-based casinos. A one-time license fee per casino would cost USD 8 million, with an additional USD 2 million towards problem gambling organizations. Online casinos would be taxed at 14% on daily gross revenues. Experts have drawn attention to the high tax-rate. However, in the light of the land-based casino’s tax-rates, this percentage is not surprising.
Many politicians have come out in opposition of the bill, which was first introduced in 2014. “I oppose the legalization of Internet gaming in Pennsylvania because my constituents […] have made it very clear that they are not interested in making gambling more accessible,” said Representative Mindy Fee.
“While the legislation has the ability to generate revenue for the Commonwealth, it also comes with risks and other costs that must be addressed,” expressed his concerns House Majority Whip Bryan Cutler. Furthermore, there are a few who believe that the budget deficit is only an excuse for gambling expansion in Pennsylvania.
“The number one misconception is that somehow we’re promoting the expansion of gaming to your cell phone. Go try it. It’s there now,” pointed out the bill’s main sponsor, Representative John Payne. “Is it the savior for the budget problem? No,” he stated.