Pennsylvania state Rep. John Payne (R-106th District) introduced an online gambling bill this week. The bill, HB649, is not specific about the games that would be legalized and regulated. It appears to leave the door open for all forms of poker and casino games.
Rep. Payne is the chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee. This committee scheduled a hearing on the topic of Internet gambling and mobile gaming for April 16.
The bill would tax gross gaming receipts at 14 percent. Licensees would pay a $5 million licensing fee under the plan. Online gaming would be conducted under the existing gaming licenses. This appears to mean that only the 12 Pennsylvania casinos could participate. These companies would likely be able to partner with software providers to power the gaming platforms. That information is not currently written into the bill.
This presents an interesting scenario for Sheldon Adelson, a vocal online gaming opponent. He is the founder and CEO of Las Vegas Sands. Pennsylvania is the only state outside Nevada that Las Vegas Sands operates a casino. Chris Grove at Online Poker Report commented on several scenarios as to how that might play out.
Pennsylvania has a $2 billion budget shortfall. The potential tax revenue from online gaming could help close some of this gap without having to raise taxes. Payne projects that online gaming would generate $120 million in tax revenue, according to a press release.
Pennsylvania is the second largest casino state behind Nevada. Much of that revenue was taken from New Jersey after table games opened in Pennsylvania in 2010.