For those hoping to play online poker in Pennsylvania sometime this year or even by early 2016, you may want to slow your roll. Information shared during a hearing on iGaming held by the Senate Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee on Thursday has all but confirmed that online poker is still nine months to a year from launching regardless of when it is legalized.
Many have considered Pennsylvania as the new frontrunner to legalize online poker in the United States following recently increasing tensions between stakeholders. Recent hearings have proven positive for the potential of passing a bill but doing so doesn’t guarantee PA residents will be playing anytime soon.
Other Pieces of Puzzle Needed Before Launch
Kevin O’Toole, Executive Director of the PA Gaming Control Board, was among those that spoke on the issues surrounding iGaming on Thursday. He stated that even if the legislature manages to pass a bill, several things need to happen before online poker will actually launch in the state. He also reiterated that they cannot control the speed at which applicants apply for a license.
O’Toole estimates that online poker will take anywhere from nine months to a year to launch following the passage of any online poker bill in the legislature. One would assume that much of this delay would be due to drawing up new iPoker regulations, approving licenses and then testing of various platforms to ensure that they comply with state regulations.
Ward Suggests Bill Will Not Be Ready in Time
Senator Kim Ward chairs the Community, Economic & Recreational Development Committee and has a different view on the bill. According to a report in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Ward believes a bill will not be ready by June 30 which is the end of the fiscal year and the deadline for the state budget.
According to Ward, “Right now we’re working on a budget in the Senate that does not include any money from gaming, whether it be Internet gaming, whether it be [off-track betting] — new gaming, new ideas.”
There are multiple bills currently under consideration in Pennsylvania but none have been pegged as the vehicle for iPoker regulation. With less than two weeks remaining in the month, it would seem that the odds of getting a bill passed are long at best.
What Happens if a Bill Fails in 2015?
If a bill fails this year, it will not be due to lack of interest or any political grandstanding but rather due to the process not being a swift one. With a lot of the initial legwork having been completed in 2015, the odds of a reintroduced passing in 2016 would be likely be 70% or greater.
It’s no secret that the state is suffering a budget crisis and one that online poker can help resolve. If they move forward with a budget this year without including iPoker, it will be a tool that will be reintroduced next year.
At present, there doesn’t appear to be enough opposition to block a properly drafted bill. If this matter moves on to 2016, expect a comprehensive bill to be at the top of the priority list for lawmakers supporting the measure.