Poker Legislation

Written By Janice Doughtrey

A recent bill wishing to regulate online casinos has just cleared a couple of top Pennsylvania Senate committees last Tuesday, placing it in the way of a potential full- Senate vote. Earlier forms of this legislation cleared the House last month as well, a crucial step in advancing the bill to where it now stands. The Senate Community and the Economic and Recreational Development Committee, as well as the Senate Appropriations Committee, have just signed the omnibus bill that also permits daily fantasy sports regulations and a valid authorization for internet lottery sales.

The legislation, called House Bill 271, was amended just this week, and it included setting a new tax rate for online slot and table games to 54 percent while also calling for 16-percent taxations on internet poker revenue streams as a whole. As detailed by Online Poker Report, this industry has expressed added concerns with its recent 54-percent tax on non-poker games, a recent move that they claim may still be tweaked.
Pennsylvania’s 12 unique land-based casinos now pay 54 percent in taxes for all slot machine revenue. All of these casinos would become eligible for increased online gambling licenses under this new bill.

A web poker license, for instance, would cost approximately $5 million while any slot or table game license would likewise cost the same in turn. Pennsylvania has been diligently eyeing a potential $250 million gambling expansion for its funds. This legislation may be voted upon by the full Senate Committee as soon as next Wednesday. If it is successful there, then it will return to the House so that lawmakers may properly review the amendments imposed. The governor would also be required to sign this legislation before it becomes official law once and for all – yet with the possibility of amendment, not a retraction.

This bill, as it has currently been written, appears more favorable to the games of poker than it does to the other online casino games, speaking primarily from a professional standpoint. Pennsylvania runs one of the highest-selling poker industries in the U.S. alone. Its brick-and-mortar poker rooms earned approximately $20.38 million throughout 2017’s first four months, an increase in at least 1.4 percent when compared to last year’s similar period: These poker rooms brought in $58.6 million within the calendar year 2016 alone, approximately $1 million more than all revenue generated in the year before that. Pennsylvania’s poker rooms have earned approximately $400 million since the first table games began within this Keystone State nearly over a decade ago.

It’s also been estimated that online gambling may add another estimated $300 million to the existing state’s gambling market. New Jersey’s $200 million in online gambling revenue has increased nearly 10 percent in contrast to Atlantic City’s recent gaming win. The problem is this: Pennsylvania’s $3 billion gambling market has not grown much in the last six years, provoking lawmakers to find other ways for this industry to earn. Pennsylvania opened its first casino in 2006.