Rep. John Payne Still Optimistic on Internet Gambling This Year

Pennsylvania has shown itself to be enthusiastic about legalizing online gambling, with lawmakers introducing several iGaming bills this year.

Yet much traction has not been gained for advocates of the industry as of late, and momentum has seemingly stalled. The state’s biggest proponent of iGaming, Representative John Payne, however, recently stated in a local TV interview his belief that Internet gambling will be part of a future budget package.

Budget crisis

The state’s Democratic Governor Tom Wolf is locked in a battle with the Commonwealth’s Republican control Gen. Assembly over how to best raise more cash to fill state coffers. Payne believes that a compromise could be reached by the inclusion of Internet gambling, something which Harrah’s has estimated could bring upwards of $40 million a year to the state.

In the short term, legalization of iGaming could provide a Band-Aid almost immediately, as the state could reap multimillion dollar licensing fees from casinos interested in opening up their own iGaming site.

Payne believes that regulating online gambling would have other benefits for the state, namely protecting residents from shady offshore sites which could cut and run with players’ cash at any time without consequence. In a bit of hyperbole, Payne asks where the money from offshore sites is going, “to China, to Isis?”

Interestingly, that’s exact opposite of the argument that Sands’ Bethlehem casino owner Sheldon Adelson has used as a reason to ban iGaming. The billionaire believes that legalizing Internet gambling will make it easier for terrorists groups to launder cash for illicit operations.

Even as the PA legislature is at an impasse on budget talks, Payne remains optimistic that iGaming legislation could still be legalized this session. “I still feel very comfortable that some forms of gaming will be part of the final budget package,” Payne said.

Pennsylvania has taken a slow and steady approach to Internet gambling, and has held several positive hearings on the topic. Most believe that the state will regulate the industry at some point, but many have doubts that it will happen this year.