Pennsylvania looks like it might become the fourth state in the country to legalize forms of online gambling. The state’s foray into gambling began in 2006 when they opened their first casino, The Mohegan Sun. In those days, casinos were legally only allowed to operate slots until table games were legalized in 2010. Just one year later, in November of 2011, Pennsylvania had already beaten New Jersey in commercial casino revenue and was second only to gambling powerhouse of Nevada. Thus, it has become a known fact that both the residents of the PA enjoy and regularly participate in gambling, and the politicians of the state are open minded to the revenue that the industry can produce. As of now, residents of the state have access to legally sanctioned gambling sites that accept PA players.
Now, Governor Tom Wolf has allowed the 2017-18 financial plan for the state of PA to be signed in without his personal signature and his office is scrambling to come up with funds to support it. It seems practically certain that legalized online casinos, online lottery sales, and daily fantasy sports betting will make it into legalization. The question now remains focuses on what will come with it. Satellite casinos, gaming areas in airports and sports betting are all being considered for possible budget solutions.
Representative George Dunbar, R-Westmoreland, is a longtime proponent of online gambling and has said in the past that sports wagering and online casino gambling are already occurring on unregulated gambling sites. “Why don’t we give the consumer protection and collect the tax revenue that we need?” he posits. “It makes sense to me.”
Experts say that it would take the industry roughly 6 months to form the regulations and infrastructure for a state licensed online gambling initiative. The plan would force the would-be online casinos in the state to only accept customers that are physically within the state lines. A requirement that is more than feasible seeing that PA would be the most populous state to legalize online gambling in the US. The first opportunities would be given to the 12 brick-and-mortar casinos that are already within the state. Much like Delaware and New Jersey, those casinos would be the first allowed to create online casinos on the backbone of their already established gambling enterprises.
Spectrum Gaming Group is an independent research firm who have done studies on the gambling industry in America. One study found that “Harnessing online gaming to land-based licensees will not only grow online and land-based revenue, but will also do more to increase employment, generate capital investment and encourage other sources of revenue, such as sales taxes.” It went on to state findings that gambling over the internet principally charms new customers as a whole and even existing customers of the brick-and-mortar casinos tend to wager more online. While it seems likely that some form of legalized online gambling will come to the state of Pennsylvania, it is still too soon to make judgements on what form that will take and what industries will come along with it. With the State Assembly breaking without a final decision on the matter, we will have to wait and see if anything drives a resolution this fall.