Pennsylvania Poised to Become 4th State to Legalize Online Gambling

Elana K. - October 30, 2017

HB 27, a bill that allows for the legalization and regulation of online gambling in Pennsylvania, passed through the PA House of Representatives by a 109-72 vote.

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is finally here  Pennsylvania has given online gambling the green light. After years of back-and-forth, progress, regressions, and lots of arguments on both sides, HB 271 passed through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives by a 109-72 vote.

What's Included in the Bill?

HB 271 allows Pennsylvania's 12 land-based casinos to obtain licenses to offer online poker, slots, and other casino games to people within state borders. The land-based casinos that wish to offer online gambling will need to pay a $10 million licensing fee, as well as a 16% tax on poker and table game revenue and a (staggering) 54% tax on slots revenue.

The bill also allows daily fantasy sports (DFS) as well as an increase in the number of land-based casinos in the state.

The Bill’s Champions

HB 271 was sponsored by Rep. Jason Ortitay, but the true champions of online gambling in Pennsylvania are Rep. George Dunbar and former Rep. John Payne. Dunbar had worked on a similar bill for five years prior but ultimately had to give it up. He was still very much invested in the issue and reportedly slept in his office the night before the House vote so he would be available to answer questions. Ultimately, Rep. Ortitay introduced HB 271 as a shell bill that needed to be filled in with details that the Senate and House could agree on.

What’s Next?

Governor Tom Wolf now has 10 days to either sign the bill or veto it, and a veto is highly unlikely. Once the bill is signed, it will then get sent to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to finalize regulations and begin the licensing process.

Both the licensing fees and the taxes are expected to contribute to a long-term solution toward Pennsylvania's 2 billion budget deficit.

Pennslyvania as a Motivator?

A number of states, including New York, California, Illinois, and New Hampshire, have all been toying, some more seriously than others, with the idea of legalizing online gambling. Perhaps Pennsylvania’s legalization will now give them the motivation to move forward. 

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