New Online Poker Bill Introduced in Pennsylvania

PA sealPennsylvania State Representative John Payne revealed his vision for online gaming expansion in the Keystone State on Thursday¬† when he unveiled his online gaming expansion bill in the House of Representatives. Interestingly, Payne’s bill, HB 649, would only legalize online poker in Pennsylvania, not online gambling, although the legislation seems to leave the door for a more comprehensive approach.

The bill makes many mentions of “Interactive Gaming” (dozens) and only two mentions of “poker.” Yet, as it is currently written it would only legalize online poker.

However, a simple change to a single word in the definitions section would change the bill from online poker to online gambling – Changing “Authorized Games” from “Interactive Poker” to Interactive Gambling,” or some similar term.

Along with Representative Payne, the bill currently has 18 other cosponsors, including Representative Tina Davis, who sponsored an online gambling bill in Pennsylvania back in 2013.

What’s in HB 649

Payne’s bill calls for the following:

  • Online poker licenses would be limited to currently licensed gaming entities in the state.
  • The upfront licensing fee would be $5 million.
  • Operators would be taxed at 14% of gross gaming revenue (GGR) payable weekly
  • Strengthening problem gambling initiatives
  • Leaves the door open for interstate compacts with other states

HB 649 on Bad Actors

Unlike the bill introduced last year by State Senator Edwin Erickson, HB 649 doesn’t contain an explicit Bad Actor provision that would prohibit PokerStars from applying for an online poker license.

This new approach is likely a sign of the times, as a number of California tribes have softened their stance on Bad Actor provisions, as has Caesars Entertainment, which is now allied with PokerStars as they push for iGaming expansion, and fight against Sheldon Adelson’s efforts to pass a federal online gambling ban.

Hearing scheduled for April 16th

On April 16th, the House Gaming Oversight Committee will host a hearing on Online and Mobile Gaming. the Committee is chaired by Rep. Payne, and also includes Rep. Davis, and four other HB 649 cosponsors, including Democratic Chair of the Committee Nick Kotik.

In total, six of the 27 members of the Gaming Oversight Committee have signed on to HB 649.


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