There were 10 states debating the possibility of legalizing online poker and many expected California to be the first amongst these ten states to legalize the online poker industry. It now appears that Pennsylvania will take the lead and go ahead with the online legalization process after the House Gaming Oversight Committee voted 18-8 in favor of legalizing the online poker industry.
If the HB 649 bill gets a possible full House vote, it will then go to the Senate for review and should it clear the Senate then it will be sent to Governor Tom Wolf who will have to make the final decision to veto or roll it out.
The HB 649 will could end up becoming part of a bigger bill that includes a number of other online gambling niches such as online lottery sales, installing slot machines at airports and regulation of the daily fantasy sports betting industry. If the bigger bill gets approval, it could provide Pennsylvania with a significant amount of taxes from the online gaming revenue that would be very beneficial to the state budget which now has a deficit that is estimated to be around $2 billion.
The Poker Players Alliance was one of the key groups who were lobbying for the legalization of online poker in Pennsylvania. The keystone state currently has 12 brick and mortar casinos and plans are underway to build a 13th casino. The state gaming association believes that the legalized online gaming industry has the potential to be a $300 million market and the state would be able to make a minimum of 10 percent from revenues generated.
In a statement, John Pappas, executive director for the PPA said
With the passage of HB 649, the House Gaming Oversight Committee has proven their commitment to providing Pennsylvania residents with a safe and regulated place to play online poker within their own borders. The PPA thanks Chairman John Payne and the Committee for their leadership. Now this bill needs to become law. The safety of consumers and the fiscal health of Pennsylvania will be vastly improved when Internet gaming is appropriately licensed, regulated and taxed. It is our hope that the legislation will be enacted on its own or as part of the state’s 2016 budget by the end of this year.
There was hardly any opposition from the brick and mortar casino industry to the legalization of online poker as eleven out of the twelve casinos either supported or were neutral to the online poker.