Will Online Gambling Come to Pennsylvania?

New bill in Harrisburg would resupply dwindling stock of aging gamblers.

Pennsylvania legislators are considering a bill to legalize Internet gambling in the state, a potential means of generating new revenue and enticing new participants to what is seen as a dwindling stock of aging gamblers.

PennLive covered Thursday’s hearing before the House Gaming Oversight Committee:

Chris Sheffield, managing director of Penn National Gaming’s online gambling operations, said the industry would help market existing casinos to new customers and grow whole new offices full of new jobs.

But while its supporters point to online gambling as a potential solution to Pennsylvania’s budget woes, actual revenue in the three states where it’s currently legal has lagged behind expectations.

“Online gambling failed to meet expectations, but I submit that it’s a failure of expectations,” said Michael Pollock, managing director of Spectrum Gaming Group, a New Jersey casino consulting firm.

New Jersey expected to generate a minimum of $200 million a year when it started online gambling operations, but instead collected $122 million. Officials say New Jersey revenues have grown since then.

But obstacles remain. On Tuesday, two days before Thursday’s hearing, the committee gave approval to a resolution urging Congress to oppose a federal bill known as the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — reportedly backed by casino magnate and conservative activist Sheldon Adelson — that would block states from allowing online gaming.

PokerNews.com reports:

On Tuesday, by a vote of 18-8, the state’s House Gaming Oversight Committee passed HR 140, a resolution that urges Congress, and the Pennsylvania delegation, to oppose the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA). The move essentially draws attention to RAWA, which would hamper Pennsylvania’s iGaming initiative, previously introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and backed by Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson.

“The passage of this resolution sends a strong and clear message to the U.S. Congress that Pennsylvania has the right to make their own legislative decisions about licensing and regulating online poker without the partisan influence of Washington politics,” said Poker Players Alliance (PPA) Executive Director John Pappas. “Sheldon Adelson’s anti-states’ rights bill would do nothing to protect Pennsylvanians online, and in fact would do the opposite by forcing Internet poker players into a black market with none of the consumer safeguards that players deserve.”

Another hearing on the Pennsylvania bill is planned for May.