Components of Rep. John Payne’s iGaming Bill Very Likely to Pass in July

While 2015 came and went without the passage of an online gambling bill in Pennsylvania, chances are very high that such legislation will be successful this year.

Assemblymember John Payne (R-Dauphin), who introduced the iGaming bill HB 649, recently told the Pennsylvania press that the state’s need for a new revenue stream will likely result in some parts of his legislation being passed this July.

“Look, we need revenue,” said Payne. “They’re not going to find votes for (higher) taxes in an election year. So I would think gaming will be a component.”




Increasing Competition

But there are other factors in play which might hasten the push to legalize iGaming. Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have begun to threaten the Commonwealth’s gambling revenue with their own casinos. Earlier this month, New Jersey lawmakers agreed to ask voters if they want to allow two massive casino projects to go forward in the northern part of the state. If given the go-ahead, the projects would be the first New Jersey casinos to be located outside of Atlantic City.

The state faces further competition in Washington DC, where the MGM Resorts International Harbor casino is set to open later this year. Casinos in Maryland, New York, and Ohio also pose a threat to the Keystone state’s gambling interests.

iGaming proponents believe that approving online gambling will help PA keep pace with New Jersey, where operators launched legal Internet gambling in 2013. While revenues have not lived up to the lofty estimates made by Garden State Gov. Chris Christie, iGaming operators made $149 million in 2015, an increase of 21.2% from $123 million in 2014. In December, NJ gambling sites hauled in a record high of $14 million.

Piggybacking on Daily Fantasy Sports

The popularity of daily fantasy sports (DFS) could also play a role in helping along iGaming legislation. Last fall, players signed up in droves to sites like FanDuel and DraftKings, who put on a nonstop ad blitz for the start of the 2015 NFL season. But after two scandals came to light, the industry was put under heavy scrutiny, and several attorneys general have already declared DFS illegal in their states.

Instead of prohibiting the industry, PA could amend Payne’s bill to explicitly legalize daily fantasy sports and reap the tax revenue which would come along with it.

Domino Effect

Analysts believe that the US iGaming industry would get a huge boost if Pennsylvania were to pass Rep. Payne’s HB 649. According to Chris Capra, US marketing director for 888poker, opening up PA to iGaming would double the current market and allow operators to pool players with other states which have also legalized the industry.

“There’s a really strong case of opening this up with a shared player pool, which is tremendously good for poker and even better for casinos, because you can share jackpots, and the (slot machine) progressives move up,” said Capra.

Rep. Payne’s iGaming proposal was briefly considered   in December, when lawmakers rushed to pass a long-overdue budget package. Now, Payne says that the legislation is back to its original purpose of shoring up the state pension fund, and will likely be considered this July.