It’s been a long time coming, but a bill to regulate online poker in Pennsylvania has finally been brought to the state legislature. Pennsylvania State Senators Edwin Erickson (R-Chester) and Bob Mensch (R-Montgomery) have introduced Senate Bill 1386, a piece of legislation that would allow the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the state’s Department of Health to regulate online poker throughout the state.
Online gambling in some form has been seen by many as the next logical step for Pennsylvania, which has been at the forefront of gambling expansion in the United States. In recent years, the state’s casinos have allowed it to pass neighboring New Jersey to become the state with the second-highest gaming revenues (trailing only Nevada). However, some officials worry that they could be left behind in the region if they don’t continue to aggressively pursue gaming opportunities, with Internet gambling being chief among them.
Similar to Other Online Poker Bills
The proposal is similar to many other state-level online gambling bills. Online currently licensed gaming companies (such as casinos or race tracks) would have the ability to operate and control interactive games in the state. However, they would be allowed to partner with vendors who provide online poker software.
One interesting aspect to the bill is that these vendor names could not be used for branding purposes. Instead, the actual license holders will have to be closely tied to the sites and their marketing.
“To ensure that actual control and supervision remains with the licensed entity, the licensed entity’s publicly accessible Internet website or similar public portal must be marketed and made available to the public under the licensed entity’s own name and brand and not the brands of third parties,” the bill states.
“Bad Actor” Clause Present
“Bad actor” clauses are now commonplace in American online gambling bills, and this legislation is no different. In this case, the language is rather standard: operators who continued to offer real money games after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) went into effect would be locked out of the market. Specifically, any entity that offered such games after December 31, 2006 is out of luck in Pennsylvania.
For the state, naturally, offering online poker is all about raising revenue. Operators that receive a license will have to pay a $5 million fee. They’ll also be on the hook for a 14 percent tax on gross gaming revenue, which will be payable on a weekly basis. All funds must be held in trust in a dedicated bank account until such payments are made to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.
Other provisions in the bill include a measure designed to protect players and their funds in the event that an operator should become insolvent. The bill would also allow Pennsylvania to enter into compacts with other states that also allow online poker, provided any shared games are legal in both jurisdictions.
A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the near future in the Pennsylvania House by Representative Nicholas Miccarelli (R-162nd District).
This is the second consecutive year in which an online gambling bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania legislature. Last year, Representative Tina Davis (D-141st District) proposed a similar bill, but was unable to move it out of committee.