You hear that New Jersey? That’s the sound of Pennsylvania beginning to catch up with you online.
On Wednesday, the House Gaming Oversight Committee passed HB 649 by a margin of 18-8, meaning that the state will soon begin to vote on whether to regulate online poker and casino games.
This move has been months in the making but likely expedited due to the current budget crisis in the state. Lawmakers are still working on a budget for 2016, one that is nearly five months overdue.
Bill can bring $120mm to state in first year
There are some major benefits to proceeding with iGaming regulation, ones that could help resolve the budget deadlock the state is experiencing. Based on the current draft of HB 649, the state could see up to $100 million in licensing revenue up front.
OnlinePokerReport broke down the figures regarding licensing fees and on the low end, the state can expect $64 to $88 million from casino licensing fees. Casinos must pay an $8 million fee to obtain a license. Significant vendors must pay $2 million for a license. The significant vendor fees could potentially push licensing revenue up to $100 million in year one.
Then there’s the revenue generated by iGaming in Year 1. OPR predicted between $121 and $129 million in first year revenue. Since casinos will be taxes at 14% of gross revenue, that would bring in another $18 million. Robert DellaFave believes that PA could bring in as much as $200 million during the first year, meaning that taxes would be in the neighborhood of $28 million.
Keep in mind that these figures are based on the current draft of the bill and assuming that most casinos participate in online gambling. We can guarantee that the Bethlehem Sands will not participate due to being owned by Sheldon Adelson. How many of the state’s 12 casinos will participate will remain to be seen.
Also, will PokerStars be permitted to operate in PA? The bill is devoid a bad actor clause, which is good for PokerStars, but regulators could still block their participation and a bad actor clause could always be added at some point during the legislative process.
Bill may be absorbed by budget bill
Another distinct possibility is that HB 649 will become part of the state budget bill that’s past due. It has reportedly been used as a negotiating tool already in talks and a potential $120 million in tax revenue is hard to ignore.
If the bill is absorbed by the tax bill, that could present the best possible scenario for PA iGaming. Once the budget bill moves through both chambers and is passed by Gov. Wolf, iGaming would become legal and the process of drafting regulations and issuing licenses can begin.
Keep in mind that nothing is in stone at the moment. Bills can change at a moment’s notice and negotiations can fall apart. That’s why we urge the people of PA to contact your local representatives and tell them you want them to support HB 649.
The Poker Player’s Alliance recently upgraded their site to include an easy access portal to lawmakers. Just go to theppa.org and click on “Take Action” to begin.