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Pennsylvania Online Gaming

Pennsylvania is widely seen as a state likely to license and regulate online gaming in the near future. Since first bringing casino gaming to the state last decade, Pennsylvania has consistently expanded gaming within the state. The state started with slot machines, then added table games, and then authorized its bars and taverns to offer limited forms of gaming. Each step was deemed necessary, either to protect the nascent industry or to expand revenue coming into the state.

State lawmakers have shown a similar pragmatic approach to online gaming.

In April 2013, House Bill 1235 was introduced by Rep. Tina Davis to legalize online gambling in Pennsylvania. The legislation called for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to regulate the licensing, operation, and responsible participation of Internet gambling. The bill also called for the proceeds from the licensing and operation of Internet gaming in the state of Pennsylvania to be split between the Property Tax Relief Fund and the State Lottery Fund. Applicants for Internet gambling licenses in Pennsylvania would be limited to entities that hold an existing slot-machine license in the state. Included in the measure were online poker, other non-house-banked games, and traditional casino table games.

The bill, however, didn't go anywhere. In June 2013, Rep. Tina Pickett, the chair of the Gaming Oversight Committee, voiced concern about bringing online gambling to Pennsylvania. Pickett said she was worried both by how online gaming could impact brick-and-mortar casinos and the possibility of bringing more gambling to the state. The legislation wasn't taken up, but the Senate did request a study on Internet gaming.

The findings of the study were made public in spring 2014. Among the findings: People who gamble online are typically people who don't visit casinos, and they wager much smaller amounts than people who visit casinos.

These findings are critical because the chief objection to online gaming has been that it might cannibalize the land-based casino industry.

In June 2014, Sen. Edwin Erickson introduced legislation to license and regulate online gaming in the state. The bill would have licensed all forms of online gaming, but it failed to make it out of committee.

In February 2015, Rep. John Payne introduced legislation that would give the state the authority to license and regulate online gaming. The proposed tax rate in Payne's bill is 14%. But in October 2015, when the House Gaming Oversight Committee was due to discuss and vote on the bill, the vote was put on hold.

In late 2015, House committee members were slated to vote on legislation that would limit real-money daily fantasy sports websites in Pennsylvania to those sponsored by the state's 12 casinos. The proposal would shut out the major US fantasy sports sites unless they were to strike a deal with the state-licensed casinos.

The Parx Casino began dabbling in online gaming when it launched a play-for-fun site in summer 2014 using WMS software. It also has a separate deal with GameAccount to run a "simulated" gaming website.
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