A quartet of Pennsylvania State Senators are preparing to introduce another online gambling bill, the fifth piece of legislation on the subject this year. Sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, Sen. Robert Tomlinson, Sen. Elder Vogel, and Sen. Kim Ward, the bill will aim to amend multiple aspects of Pennsylvania’s Gaming Act, not just online gaming.
The complete text of the bill has yet to be introduced, but the Senators sent a memo to their colleagues last week summarizing what will be included. Applicable to our interests is the section that would legalize internet poker and other forms of gambling:
Existing PA casinos that offer slot machine and table games would be eligible to offer Internet gaming to individual patrons that have registered and established an Internet gaming account and are physically present in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania while playing online. In addition, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs would be required to develop expanded compulsive and problem gambling programs specifically related to Internet gaming.
The other portions of the bill have nothing to do with online poker, but rather would allow for the expansion of gambling, to some extent, in the Commonwealth. For instance, Pennsylvania has an odd rule that visitors to one of the state’s two resort casinos (casino plus hotel, categorized as a Class 3 licensee) must either spend ten dollars somewhere else on the property or pay for a casino membership in order to permitted entry into the casino proper. The bill would eliminate this strange requirement.
Of course, those involved with other classes of casinos won’t necessarily like this, as the removal of the silly fee could serve to increase gaming traffic to the resort casinos. “We are staunchly opposed to relaxing Category Three restrictions,” Ron Baumann, general manager of Harrah’s Philadelphia in Chester, told Philly.com.
And why wouldn’t he be? Harrah’s a Class 1 licensee, had to pay $50 million for its license, whereas a Class 3 licensee only has to shell out $5 million. At the same time, though, Harrah’s is allowed to have 5,000 slot machines and 250 table games, while resort casinos may only have 600 slot machines and 50 table games.
The memo the Senators prepared concluded with the following:
These enhancements and reforms are reflective of the challenges faced both in establishing and maintaining the viability of the PA gaming industry in an increasingly competitive environment. It is imperative that we avoid the status quo and ensure PA casinos have the tools necessary to continue to thrive and guarantee the job security of the many men and women employed by the PA gaming industry. This proposed legislation is meant to ensure a healthy and vibrant business atmosphere for Pennsylvania’s gaming industry, while maximizing gaming revenue and the positive economic impact of gaming in the Commonwealth.