After months of speculation regarding the direction of online poker regulation in Pennsylvania, we finally have some real movement on a bill. On Wednesday, the Pennsylvania House Gaming Oversight Committee passed HB 649, a bill that will legalize iGaming in the state if it passes.
The bill came up suddenly on the committee’s agenda earlier in the week, creating excitement that iGaming regulation may finally move forward. On Wednesday, the committee passed the measure by a count of 18-8 and the bill will now move forward for a full vote on the House floor.
Now the bill moves forward to the Pennsylvania House for a full vote. Below are a few key highlights from the bill:
• Online gaming providers will pay $5 million for a license; other significant vendors must pay $1 million to become licensed.
• Both online poker and casino games would become regulated.
• Players must be at least 21 and physically located in Pennsylvania
• No bad actor clause, which means PokerStars may be allowed to operate.
• Tax rate of 14% of gross revenue.
If the bill passes out of the House, it will go on to the Senate. If the Senate doesn’t propose changes to the bill, the Senate would then vote on the bill. If the Senate does propose changes, the bill drops back to the House to approve those changes.
Should the bill move through chambers and pass, the bill would go to the desk of Tom Wolf for approval. At present, there is little reason to believe that he would not sign a bill passed by the legislature.
— PokerPlayersAlliance (@ppapoker) November 18, 2015
The Budget Option
While Wednesday’s committee vote was huge for HB 649, it is not the only option for iGaming regulation. There is also a chance that the bill could be attached to the annual state budget that is presently over four months overdue.
The iGaming bill is viewed as one option for moving past the budget impasse. It can provide the state with needed tax revenue without raising citizen taxes. There have already been discussions towards that end, so a vote by the legislature may be unnecessary on the individual bill.
Should HB 649 be attached to the state budget and the budget pass, iPoker would become regulated immediately and regulators could begin the process of licensing operators. It is expected that the state could make up to $50 million in fees from online poker providers during the first year in the form of licensing fees.