Representative John Payne Introduces Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill HB 649

Pennsylvania Representative John Payne has introduced online gambling bill HB 649.

Payne, who chairs the House Committee on Gaming Oversight, announced last month that the group would host a public hearing on Internet gaming on April 16.

The Republican lawmaker highlighted the need to regulate online gambling as a safeguard against offshore sites operating outside of the law. “Right now millions of Americans, including Pennsylvanians, participate in illegal online gaming where no regulation currently exists,” said Payne in a statement. “By enacting effective state policy, we can help curb the illegal market while ensuring strong safeguards are in place to protect consumers.”

The specifics

The bill would make legal any interactive game approved by the state gaming board for individuals 21 and older. Pennsylvania would charge a $5 million licensing fee and collect 14% of daily gross interactive gaming revenue in taxes.

Only current gaming license holders would be eligible to open an iGaming site, with affiliates needing a “significant vendor” license to participate in the industry. HB 649 would allow for interstate compacts to be created in order to increase player pools.

No bad actor clause

Importantly for PokerStars, Payne’s bill does not include a bad actor clause which would block the entry of sites which operated in the US after the UIGEA was passed.

Payne believes that in legalizing online gambling, the state could rake in a considerable amount of revenue. “We are currently facing a projected $2 billion budget shortfall,” he said. “I think it’s important we consider all responsible options to boost revenue before we consider asking our taxpayers for more money to fill that deficit.”

Sheldon Adelson, one of Internet gambling’s fiercest opponents, operates the successful Las Vegas Sands casino in Bethlehem. While it remains to be seen how hard the gaming tycoon will fight the industry in the Keystone State, iGaming analyst Chris Grove believes that budget concerns may trump any tricks which Adelson has up his sleeve.

Unlike Adelson, Payne believes that fraud stopping measures taken by regulated sites in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey are strong enough to ensure a safe gaming environment online. “This legislation is the first step toward ensuring future growth as the industry expands,” he concluded.