Thursday, April 25, 2013
The state of Pennsylvania took the first step toward legalizing online casino gambling Monday when state Rep. Tina Davis (D-Bucks) introduced House Bill 1235 with 11 other co-sponsors, including Pittsburgh’s own Dom Costa.
The bill, which can be read here, allows for casino companies already operating inside the state to offer online games including poker, blackjack, slot machines or “any other game approved by regulation of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board to be suitable for use for Internet gaming activities.”
So while it will allow games with very low house edge — poker, blackjack and craps — it will also open the door for other forms of gambling that might be less friendly to a player’s wallet like roulette, slots and the Pick 6 wheel.
The bill should come as no surprise to anyone since other states including New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada approved online gaming this year. The games would be open only to state residents, but there is a provision in the law that would allow reciprocation agreements with other states.
The state of New Jersey is hoping to have its operation up and running by November, and although they originally hoped to raise about $180 million in extra revenues annually, figures released Wednesday put the estimate at closer to $113 million.
Operators who want to open an online operation will pay the state a one-time $5 million licensing fee and an annual renewal of $500,000. Gambling revenues will then be taxed at 28 percent. In New Jersey, the tax rate is much lower at 15 percent. The bill is a bit different than one that Davis unveiled in January which featured a nearly $17 million licensing fee.
Among the bill’s other components is the ability for the player to set certain safeguards to control “wagering activity.” Those include the ability to set a limit on the amount of money a player can lose in a given time period, place limits on the amount that can be wagered on any one turn in any game, and receive notices of wins and losses if the player “sustains continuous losses at a sufficient level.”
The bill has been referred to the House committee on gaming oversight.