19 May

PA Internet Gambling Bill stalled, or waiting for DFS to Catch Up?

internet gambling billPennsylvania is considered by many experts to be the next most likely state to join Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey by passing an internet gambling bill. When Rep. John Payne introduced HB 649 last year, hopes were high that 2016 would see its passage. Now, after 5 months of stagnation, some are questioning whether the bill stalled out, or if legislators are waiting to evaluate an upcoming report on daily fantasy sports (DFS).

HB 649 has seen a lot of alterations since it was first introduced in February 2015. Even the measure’s ‘Short Title’ now reads, “providing for fantasy sports report…“, along with many other gaming related additives.

I think OPR‘s Steve Ruddock put it best when he described the current text of the internet gambling bill as having “morphed into a comprehensive gaming reform measure”.

DFS has been a topic of discussion in Pennsylvania since a regulatory framework was first introduced in May of 2015, but it was essentially brushed aside. When consumer protection issues arose in October, daily fantasy sports became a more important issue, resulting in the request for an official report on the topic.

It’s fairly clear that the state wants to regulate DFS, and there are multiple benefits to authorizing online casino and poker games, specifically to provide consumer protection laws and, as Rep. Payne has said several times, to help supplement Pennsylvania’s gaping pension deficit.

Rep. Payne spoke with Ruddock earlier this week and confirmed that his intentions have not changed, and that his internet gambling bill has not stalled. He said that appearance was born from the fact that HB 649 was already approved by the PA Gaming OVersight Committee – the same committee that he Chairs.

He told OPR that the legislation has been kept active by moving it on and off the table, as is common practice in legislative matters when waiting for another issue to be resolved. In this case, the subject of DFS could very well be the catalyst.

The Gaming Control Board was given a deadline to produce its DFS report, and that date – May 27, 2016 – is fast approaching. Once the report is received, a DFS hearing will take place to discuss the results and recommendations for regulation. Rep. Payne confirmed the provisory date for that hearing is slated for June 1.

It could very well be that legislators are waiting to see the results of that hearing before moving forward with the internet gambling bill. With so many amendments already being made to HB 649, it would make sense to script the recommended provisions for DFS into the measure before moving forward.

There is already enough opposition in Pennsylvania to any legislation that would result in an expansion of gambling. Attempting to pass multiple pieces of legislation that could be interpreted as expansion would be a lot more difficult than passing a single measure intended to safeguard the industry, protect consumers and bring in much needed funds to cover what’s already stacking up to be a $1.8 billion budget deficit.