PA Representative Nick Miccarelli Introduces State’s Second Online Gambling Bill

Pennsylvania State Representative Nick Miccarelli has introduced HB 695, a bill which seeks to legalize online poker in the Keystone State.

“Poker is unlike banking games in many respects that make it best for the introduction of interactive gaming,” said Miccarelli in a statement. “Poker operators are not participants in the games and are indifferent as to the outcome”.

Miccarelli’s legislation comes on the heels John Payne’s online gambling bill HB 649, introduced last month. Both bills are similar in many respects, but Miccarelli’s offering is for poker only, and includes strong bad actor language which would block PokerStars from becoming licensed in the state.

HB 695 would prohibit sites which operated after the UIGEA was passed and even blocks companies which have “purchased or acquired, directly or indirectly, in whole or in significant part, a third-party described in paragraph (1) or will use that third-party or covert asset in connection with interactive gaming.” The language is a clear swipe at PokerStars, who was acquired by Amaya Gaming last year in a $4.9 billion purchase.

The similarities

Similar to Payne’s HB 649, Miccarelli’s bill would charge a licensing fee of $5,000,000 and tax online gambling operators 14% of gross gaming revenue. Only current gaming license holders would be eligible to open up their own sites under both bills.

Miccarelli’s previous incarnation of HB 695 did not allow for compacts with other states, a measure which would be necessary to create a critical mass of users for sites to thrive. But in HB 695, he has changed his stance and updated the bill to make such compacts possible.

Like Payne, Miccarelli believes that legalizing online poker could result in a windfall for the Keystone State. “A recent study from the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee found that Internet Gaming is a large new source of revenue that the Commonwealth could explore,” he said in a statement. “This means more revenue to assist in the reduction of real estate taxes.”

He also cited the need to regulate iGaming as a protection for the many Pennsylvania citizens who currently play on offshore, unlicensed sites. “Establishing a strong regulatory framework under the Gaming Control Board will assist in shutting down these illegal sites and enhance consumer protection for our gaming residents,” he continued.

HB 649 was originally filed as an online poker only bill, but was quickly amended to allow for any interactive game approved by regulators. Pennsylvania, like California, is seen as one of the states who could soon legalize some form of online gambling. The state has taken a slow and steady approach, conducting hearings and funding studies to explore the potential benefits of the industry.