PENNSYLVANIA TO SCHEDULE ONLINE POKER HEARING

POKER HEARING IN Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania lawmakers are continuing to build momentum in their battle to legalize online poker in the state.

As New York tries to beat it to the finish line, Pennsylvania lawmakers will meet on March 28 to discuss the pros of allowing the state’s 12 casinos to provide their games over the web. This hearing will take place before the state’s House Gaming Oversight Committee.

All but two of the dozen casinos believe online gambling would uplift the state’s casino industry. However, one of those two has found a new purchaser. MGM, a chief supporter of online gaming efforts in New York, has agreed to buy Sheldon Adelson’s Sands Bethlehem casino.

That would leave just Parx Casino as the sole opponent to online betting. Parx testified at a hearing in the previous week that online casinos could cannibalize existing revenues.

The issue is that the state’s $3 billion casino gambling market hasn’t bloomed much over the past half-decade. Pennsylvania saw its first casino open shop in 2006.

Pennsylvania currently has a live poker market worth nearly $60 million a year, about twice the market in the state of New Jersey.

It was revealed at the hearing that state officials have met more than 80 times over the past 24 months to discuss new ways to enhance the state’s industry in light of competition from nearby states. Pennsylvania receives more than 50 percent of slot machine revenue brought in by its casinos, which makes it a majority stakeholder and offers great incentive for lawmakers to safeguard this market.

It’s been estimated that online gambling could boost up about $300 million to the present gambling market, which would be roughly 10 percent.  New Jersey’s $200 million online gambling market currently adds nearly 10 percent to Atlantic City gaming win.

A wrench was thrown into the online casino plans this week after a group of five lawmakers introduced a bill that seeks to oppose the legalization. The bill is intended to bring in consumer protections via criminalization rather than regulation. But, as  online poker supporters have argued over the years, prohibition doesn’t work out well.

Another constituent of the gambling expansion package is permitting potentially thousands of additional slot machines peppered all throughout the state. That idea is widely opposed by the state’s casino industry. That implies that online gambling could be the only way to bring in that additional $250 million for the state’s coffers.