Finally, it’s been more than four and a half years since a State had legalized iGaming. Now, Pennsylvania is poised to become the fourth State to legalize online poker and gambling behind Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.
The newest development came after the lawmakers from both the House and the Senate signed off on a gambling expansion packaged H 271 and now sits at Governor Tom Wolf’s desk, awaiting his signature to officially become law.
Huge Support from the Senate
On Wednesday afternoon, the Senate Rules Committee amended and passed the bill H 271 with a 17-1 votes. By the evening of the very same day, the online gambling expansion bill received majority votes by the full Senate with a vote of 31-19.
This is only the second time the Senate has ever passed a bill which included iGaming. The first time came in May of this year which marked a monumental step for the Keystone State towards fully legalizing online gambling.
Unfortunately, the amendments to the bill made by the Senate – a 54 percent tax on online casino games – would be detrimental to everyone involved, including casino operators, players, and the state itself. The only party that would stand to benefit from this huge tax requirement would be the black-market operators who would find even more opportunities to exploit the unregulated and unlicensed online gambling sector within Pennsylvania.
Luckily, and predictably, representatives at the House stepped in to lower the tax to a flat 16% for both casino and poker games. This disagreement, along with the issues of video gaming terminals (VGT) was the main culprit for prolonging the legalization of iGaming in Pennsylvania to this day.
In an effort to come to meet halfway with the House, the Senate changed its mind on VGT and went from No-VGT stance to allowing a limited rollout just at truck stops.
“There’s no question that that was added to bring consensus between the Senate and the House,” said Senator Jay Costa, floor leader for the Democrats.
The House Joins Hand with the Senate
Just a day after the H 271 was passed by the Senate, the house spent a couple of hours on Wednesday night debating the new bill, and a couple more hours on Thursday morning before reaching a vote of 109-72 in favour of the bill.
Just as the Senate made changes in an effort to come to an agreement with the House, the House also took a few steps back and settled with the 54 percent tax on internet slots and 16 percent for online poker and other online table games.
What Is in the New HB 271
The 470-page long bill was made public on Wednesday night. In it are provisions for many things related to online gaming, but the main highlights are the following:
- Legalizes and regulates online poker, online table games, and online slots.
- Regulations for sports betting if it becomes legal at federal level.
- Video Gaming Terminals (VGTs) at qualified truck stops.
- 10 satellite casinos.
- Daily Fantasy Sports.
- Sales of lottery online.
- Online slots – 52% +2% local share for a total of 54% tax
- Online poker and other online table games – 14% + 2% local share for a total of 16% tax
- Daily fantasy sports – a flat 15% tax
- Online sports betting – 24% + 2% local share for a total of 36% tax
- Changes to Category 3 licenses – the removal of membership fee and allowance for more slots for a one-time fee.
Authorizes tablet gaming in certain areas of designated airports.
The final decision on tax rates and licensing fees are as follows:
Three distinct licenses are outlined in H 271: online poker, online table games, and online slots. These licenses are available to all 12 existing casinos at a price tag of $10 million for all three licenses, as long as they are purchased within the first 90 days of the licenses being available. After that, each license will cost $4 million each.
Companies outside of the state will be allowed to apply for the licenses for $4 million each after 120 days of the licenses being made available to casinos within the state.
Will Gov. Wolf Sign the Bill?
Considering the fact that Wolf has shown little to no resistant to the legalization of online gambling in the past, conventional wisdom says Wolf will likely follow in line and put his signature on the bill.