With nearby New Jersey and Delaware already on board with legalized online gambling, Pennsylvania has also decided to take a look. Pennsylvania Resolution SR 273 was approved by the state Senate, which means that state is officially going to conduct a study of Internet gambling viability. Several other states are legitimately considering passing Internet gambling laws that would allow their residents and visitors to shuffle up and deal, play some virtual slots or enjoy popular casino table games over the Internet through state licensed options, expanding the list of existing offshore legal Pennsylvania online gambling options already available. Illinois and California appear to be the front-runners in the race to become state number four in the young and slowly growing United States based Internet gambling industry.
The feasibility study will be financed by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. But as is often the case, not all lawmakers are on the same side of the aisle regarding this issue. As actually stated, the upcoming study will focus on New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada as examples of successful Web gambling operations. Also, one specific goal is to “analyze the potential impact of online gaming on the gaming industry, including the impact online gaming may have on the Commonwealth’s tax revenues and employment at the Commonwealth’s casinos.” State Representative Mario Scavello is such a disbeliever in the legitimacy and benefits of online gambling that he recently proposed throwing Pennsylvania residents in jail if they are caught gambling on the Internet.
Such a drastic opinion seems to have had the opposite effect of what Scavello intended. Pennsylvania proponents of cyber gambling have rallied in defense of their argument that state residents are already wagering money online in legitimate offshore casinos. They point out that as responsible adults they should not be prohibited from Internet gambling, and that the money generated from those activities should be staying at home. Whether Scavello has some unseen agenda in the works with such a heavily stated opinion remains to be seen. But one thing is for certain. Pennsylvania voters are not of the same mindset as their hard-line state representative.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed more than 62% of all Pennsylvanians in favor of legal online gambling in that state. Scavello’s harsh stance comes as some lawmakers at the federal level agree on outlawing all forms of World Wide Web wagering in the United States, even at the state level. Calling for a “restoration of the Wire Act”, a few congressmen in both houses are currently discussing whether the 2011 Department of Justice pro-gambling opinion should be reversed. A provision is also being discussed that would make the current legal New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware Internet gambling industries illegal operations.
As Pennsylvania Resolution SR 273 moves forward, apparently oblivious or simply unconcerned with Scavello’s prohibitive attempts and opinions, a look back at past prohibition laws is required. In the 1920s, the United States outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcohol. That helped create the formation of the Italian mafia, as the vast majority of Americans continued to drink anyway. The War on Drugs in the 1980’s empowered cocaine-fueled Colombian billionaires, and the current Internet gambling industry at the global level is estimated to generate between $25 and $35 billion a year. Scavello proposes punishing operators of online gambling ventures, businesses which “support their activities” and individual gamblers as well. First violations under her proposed law would call for a $250 fine and up to 90 days in jail, with a second offense requiring up to a one-year jail sentence and $2,500 fine.