PA Legislature gambling issues

Busy Gambling Month For Pennsylvania Legislature: Fantasy Sports, Sports Betting On Radar

The Pennsylvania legislature will take up a number of items related to gambling next month, including the unveiling of a much-anticipated report on daily fantasy sports.

What’s going in May in gambling?

The House Gaming Oversight Committee has a busy agenda next month, with six scheduled hearings and meetings so far.

The committee will be taking its show on the road throughout May, with hearings at Hollywood Casino at Penn National Race Course, Valley Forge Casino and Resort and Parx Casino.

The major topics of consideration will be games of skill, fantasy sports, sports betting and small games of chance.

Skill gaming in PA

The first topic up for serious consideration will be the regulation of games of skill and skill slot machines. It’s a topic of debate at the May 2 hearing at Hollywood Casino.

HB 1423, which was introduced in June of last year, is back in play. The bill, as written, defines skill slot machines and hybrid machines as exempt from the 85% payout requirement for slots under current state law, according to sponsor Representative Susan Helm. The bill would also give the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board wide-ranging powers to regulate games of skill.

The appearance of the legislation on a public hearing agenda indicates Pennsylvania may get serious on this topic.

Small games of chance in PA

It will be interesting to see what comes out of a May 3 hearing regarding small games of chance. A bill — HB 1891 — was already reported out of committee favorably and now sits on the House floor.

The legislation, sponsored by House Gaming Oversight Committee Chairman John Payne, would revamp current law and put the PGCB in charge of small games of chance.

The hearing could result in changes to how the bill via amendments, as it received some pushback when passed.

Daily fantasy sports and sports betting

Fantasy sports and sports betting will be a topic of discussion on all the hearings being held outside of the statehouse.

But the most interesting hearing comes on May 25, when the results of the a study commissioned on daily fantasy sports will be heard in committee. On that day, the PGCB will issue its report on “the potential of fantasy sports as a gambling product” in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania, unlike a lot of other states, has not taken a serious stab at regulating DFS, yet. The content of this report could set the tone for the legislature moving forward.

What’s not on the agenda?

Some other major gambling issues in the state, however, are remaining on the sidelines, and that includes Pennsylvania online casinos.

HB 649 — originally a bill designed just to legalize and regulate online poker and casino games — was eventually amended to become a major gaming expansion in the state.

The bill is still in front of the full House, but action stalled after it made progress at the end of the year.

Rep. Payne, the sponsor of the bill, has remained optimistic that online gambling will get real consideration in the spring of 2016. But, for now, all is quiet on the online gambling front.