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Archives for 2018-09-12
Pennsylvania could be on its way to becoming the fourth state to legalize online gaming. A bill that would permit the state’s casinos to operate poker and casino games over the Internet passed out of a house committee this morning. The bill, HB 649, is sponsored by Rep. John Payne, chairman of the Pennsylvania Gaming Oversight Committee. HB 649 passed the committee by an 18-8 margin. It now heads to the full Pennsylvania House for a vote. If it passes, it would then head to the state Senate. The bill may also be attached to a state budget, which is 130 days past due. What HB 649 permits HB 649 would permit online poker and casinos games in the state. Pennsylvania casinos would operate regulated online games. Outside companies could provide software to Pennsylvania casino licensees. Casinos would pay $5 million in licensing fees under HB 649. Software providers would pay $1 million to get licensed. The tax rate would be 14 percent of gross revenues. In addition to online poker, any casino game legal at Pennsylvania casinos would be permitted over the Internet at licensed sites. This includes slots, video poker, blackjack, roulette, craps and a variety of proprietary table games. Three states already permit licensed online gaming. Nevada became the first state to regulated online poker in April 2013. Delaware and New Jersey launched online poker and casinos games in November 2013. Poker Players Alliance reaction John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, released this statement:
1 Approach No.1: Regulated like gambling
2 Approach No.2: The fantasy industry model bill?
3 Which DFS bill will win? Pennsylvania is still waiting on an actual bill that would regulate the daily fantasy sports industry. But when the state legislature finally sits down to look at the issue in earnest, it may be faced with two different ways of approaching DFS. Pennyslvania lags far behind the majority of states, which have already introduced bills focusing on daily fantasy sports. Approach No.1: Regulated like gambling The idea of treating DFS much like the regulated gambling industry — either the land-based casino model or online gambling — is an idea that has been floating around Pennsylvania for months. The idea of tying DFS to casinos actually came up nearly a year ago, when a bill that would allow casinos to offer fantasy sports contests surfaced. That bill, however, had no oversight for the industry as it exists currently, and it never went anywhere. When lawmakers have talked about the issue, it has largely been through the lens that it needs to be treated like gambling. To wit:
Rep. George Dunbar planned to amend his casino DFS bill to become a regulatory bill that would put it under the purview of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
The state passed a bill that commissioned a study of DFS as a “gambling product.” More on that in-progress study here (paywall).
There has been talk that a gaming expansion package — one that includes online gambling and poker — would be the final home of DFS regulation. What the final language of this approach to DFS will look like is unknown, but it appears that it would include heavy licensing fees and taxes on gross revenue, and controls much like already exist for PA casinos (or like what exists for New Jersey online casinos). The biggest issue might be calling DFS gambling instead of a game skill, something the industry has vehemently opposed. That is something that would be rectified in the opposing approach. Approach No.2: The fantasy industry model bill? The more recent effort — which is still in the formative stages, as well — is a potential bill from State Sen. Anthony Williams. His bill would classify DFS as a game of skill. Here’s what else we know about it, from his co-sponsorship memorandum: Operators of websites would be required to register with the PA Gaming Control Board and to remit taxes based on gross revenues earned from play in the state. Following the lead of Virginia, this industry-supported legislation would also protect players over 18 from engaging in problem gambling, protect their personal information, and prohibit employees of fantasy gaming companies from profiting off of “insider information.” If it takes the form of the Virginia legislation — which became law in March — it would be much like the legislation that has been pushed by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association in a variety of states. However, the Virginia law is only truly applauded by the two largest operators — DraftKings and FanDuel — as a licensing fee of $50,000 is too high for most smaller operators to afford. The bill, without seeing the actual language, seems like it would be far less onerous for fantasy sports operators to comply with, both from a monetary and logistical standpoint. Which DFS bill will win? If one were handicapping the two approaches, the gambling approach seems more likely to win out. The state’s lawmakers have had little interest, so far, in performing gymnastics in regards to vocabulary — i.e. calling something they believe to be gambling a “game of skill.” However, Pennsylvania has been moving slowly and thoughtfully on the matter of DFS. The idea that DFS operators may pass on Pennsylvania because they can’t afford to be called a gambling product (from a legal standpoint in the U.S.) could give legislators reason to pause. Is it possible some sort of hybrid approach surfaces — one where DFS is classified as a game of skill but is still treated like other forms of regulated gambling — end up being the winner? That might be the smart bet.
If the federal government — either through the courts or Congress — ever allows for regulated sports betting, it appears Pennsylvania will be among the first in line to offer it. The latest on Pennsylvania and sports betting Pennsylvania’s legislature has been eyeing legal sports betting for some time now. Earlier this year, a House committee passed a resolution asking for Congress to repeal the federal law that prohibits sports betting in most jurisdictions: the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The latest momentum? The House Gaming Oversight Committee considered the subject of sports betting again during a recent hearing, and some members talked about it. From Penn Live: Next year for sports betting, though? Payne’s optimism about the timeframe for legal sports betting could be a bit misplaced. While it’s possible that it could happen at some point in the future, a repeal of PASPA is likely still years away. However, a Congressional subcommittee will examine the topics of daily fantasy sports and sports betting on May 11. There is a chance that we discover during that hearing that there is a federal appetite for revisiting the ban on sports betting outside of Nevada and limited wagering in three other states. Of course, it’s also possible that sports betting becomes legal through the courts. New Jersey is fighting to allow sports betting within its borders; however, legal analysts believe the state will lose its current appeal. Pennsylvania has also considered regulating the daily fantasy sports industry. Next steps for PA sports betting If Pennsylvania is truly serious about pushing for legal sports betting, it has a few things it could do:
The full legislature could pass the resolution mentioned above.
A bill legalizing sports betting could be drafted and passed. Rep. Nick Kotik is in favor of the latter suggestion. More from Penn Live: Will Pennsylvania have legal sports betting any time soon? It won’t happen this year, but Pennsylvania will be at the forefront if and when it is possible.
Sands Bethlehem has been fined $36,000 by the state of Pennsylvania for alleged underage gambling violations. The Sands violations The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board announced the violations via its website this week. From the PGCB: No other fines for underage gambling were levied against any other Pennsylvania casino. A fine was issued to Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh for an automatic shuffler error. A report at LehighValleyLive.com had more details on the violations, and other Sands Bethlehem violations in the past: Underage violations from an Adelson property? Given the stance of Sheldon Adelson — the owner of Sands Bethlehem and a variety of other casinos around the world — on online gambling, the fines are pretty ironic. Adelson’s lobbyists and politicians who support the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — a bill to ban online gaming — contend that children could gamble online if it were easily accessible. For instance, from the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling website: That assessment has little merit based on the experiences of the regulated online poker and casino markets in New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware. Seeing as underage gambling a major point of contention in the fight against allowing regulated online gaming, one would think Adelson’s brick-and-mortar gaming establishments would have a sterling track record on the subject. However, that is obviously not the case. Sands Bethlehem is the only property that is opposed to legislation that would allow Pennsylvania online casinos. The latest on online gambling in PA Online gambling appears to be a part of ongoing budget discussions in the state, although to what extent is unknown. At worst, it appears that online gambling will be considered in the spring, apart from budget talks.