Pennsylvania lawmakers are currently reviewing two bills that would legalize online gambling. Many lawmakers feel that regulating online gambling would be beneficial for the state, but want to study the idea more carefully before voting on it. The Senate Committee on Community, Economic and Social Development held a hearing on Tuesday to discuss the benefits, drawbacks and options associated with regulation.
Senator Kim Ward, the Chairman of the Committee, said that legalizing online gambling is a necessary step to protect the state’s casino industry and economy. Pennsylvania’s casinos are more profitable than most of their counterparts in other parts of the country. However, Ward and other experts fear that the industry will start to decline in the future. This would lead to inevitable job losses and reduce tax revenue.
The new hearing intends to address some of the most pressing issues associated with legalizing online poker in Pennsylvania. Lawmakers will need to discuss a tax structure that would generate sufficient tax revenue without burdening the casinos. They have thoroughly studied the tax systems that were introduced in the three states that have legalized online gambling, but will need to decide whether those policies are ideal for Pennsylvania.
A number of experts testified at the recent hearing. The witnesses included a number of economists, such as Stephen P. Mullin, the president of Econsult Solutions. The committee also heard testimony from Kevin F. O’Toole, the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the leaders from a number of state casinos. Keith Whyte of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania (CCGP) also provided a testimony. The committee also reviewed written testimony from some experts that weren’t able to attend the conference in person, including:
- Daniel Meuser, Secretary of Revenue
- Charles Zogby, Secretary of Budget
- James S. Pappas, Executive Director of the CCGP
- John A. Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance
Most experts are in favor of legalizing online gambling, but feel that there are a number of issues that will need to be addressed. The committee intends review their testimonies carefully before voting on either of the outstanding online gambling bills.