PA Committee Passes HR 140 Ahead of Thursday’s Online Gaming Hearing

PA sealWith an online gambling hearing coming up later this week the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee passed HR 140, a resolution urging Pennsylvania’s federal delegation to oppose the Restoration of America’s Wire Act bill introduced by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), and backed by Sheldon Adelson.

Thursday’s hearing will feature a number of panelists as Pennsylvania continues to explore online gambling expansion.

“The passage of this resolution sends a strong and clear message to the U.S. Congress that Pennsylvania has the right to make their own legislative decisions about licensing and regulating online poker without the partisan influence of  Washington politics,” said John Pappas, the Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, following the passage of HR 140 on Tuesday.

HR 140 is more of a symbolic vote, designed to draw attention to RAWA, and demonstrate to Pennsylvania’s large Congressional delegation that passing such a bill would have immediate and negative impacts back home.

HR 140 was introduced by Representative John Payne, the new Chairman of the Gaming Oversight Committee and reads:

“A Resolution urging the Congress of the United States to defeat H.R. 707 and any other legislation which would prohibit states from authorizing and conducting Internet gaming.”

The resolution could also act as a last ditch contingency plan if RAWA does manage to pass, allowing Pennsylvania to lobby for an exemption from the bill – much like the exemptions Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana have from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) that outlawed sports betting in 1992.

Thursday’s hearing could be tough for RAWA supporters

The passage of HR 140 was just the first order of business for the Gaming Oversight Committee in 2015, as Chairman Payne has been consistent in his proclamations that his main goal is to keep Pennsylvania’s gaming industry healthy and competitive, and part of his plan seems to be online gaming expansion.

When I spoke with Rep. Payne last month he stated the first order of business on that front was to pass HR 140, and from there he would gather all of the information on online gambling and make the case for online gambling to House leadership in May.

Step 1 is now complete, as HR 140 easily passed the Gaming Oversight Committee on Tuesday with 18 votes for and only 8 against. Now it’s on to Step 2, an online gambling hearing on April 16th, followed by another online gambling hearing on May 6th.

The passage of HR 140 isn’t overly surprising considering several pro-online gambling lawmakers are part of the Gaming Oversight Committee and Pennsylvania is perhaps the most likely candidate for iGaming expansion in 2015.

Committee members include the sponsors of an online gambling legalization bill (HB 649) Chairman John Payne and Democratic Chair Nick Kotik, as well as Tina Davis, who introduced an online gambling in 2013 and again this year.

The makeup of the Gaming Oversight Committee is not good news for Las Vegas Sands’ Andy Abboud who will be representing the anti-online gambling crowd at the hearing on Payne’s HB 649 this Thursday, where he will likely be one of, if not the only voices of dissent on the issue.

Abboud has already submitted written testimony (filled with his usual half-truths and mischaracterizations)  for the hearing and should expect to be grilled by the pro-online gambling committee members who may not be too pleased with some of his assertions.

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