Pennsylvania has expanded its gambling industry considerably over the past decade. The industry has helped boost revenues for the state’s revenue considerably. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board said that it generates about $4 million in taxes from the state’s twelve casinos every day. A Pennsylvania lawmakers discussed this during the Internet Gaming hearing on May 1st.
Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Sturla said that the state will probably legalize online gambling in the future. He isn’t sure when the government will propose a bill, but feels that it should be a priority. He stated that many Pennsylvania citizens are already playing on foreign gaming sites. Many of them have fallen victims to scams, because these sites are poorly regulated or unregulated in the jurisdictions they operate. Sturla and many other Pennsylvania lawmakers feel that they need to regulate online gambling in the Keystone State to protect these citizens.
Testimony from industry players operating in others states played a part in the hearing. David Satz from Caesars Entertainment Corp stated that in New Jersey 91% of online gambling players are new customers. The other 9% that are current customers have become better customers helping ease the current notion that it would cannibalize brick and mortar casinos.
John Pappas, the Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance, has been instrumental in the campaign to regulate online poker in Pennsylvania and other states. Pappas said that the goal isn’t to encourage gambling. The Poker Players Alliance wants to make sure that sites are supervised to protect those that are already gambling. Pappas warned that many players are transferring money to gaming providers on the other side of the world without any guarantee that they will ever see it again.
Some experts don’t concur with Pappas and Sturla’s position on regulation. Ken Whyte, the Executive Director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, said that nearly 300,000 Pennsylvania citizens are gambling addicts. Whyte said that legalizing online gambling would likely increase the prevalence of citizens with gambling problems.
Lawmakers will need to consider the potential social costs that Whyte warns about, but they may also be swayed by the opportunity to generate more revenue from Pennsylvania online poker & casino sites. Lobbyists for many casinos are emphasizing the benefits that revenue could bring to the state.