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Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Doesn’t Pass; Re-Vote at Future Date

 Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill Doesn’t Pass; Re Vote at Future Date

It was a weird day in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Tuesday as legislators voted on whether or not to legalize online gambling, including online poker, in the Commonwealth. It was generally thought that Tuesday would be a close win for the online poker community, but it strangely wasn’t. The conclusion, though, is yet to come.

Rep. John Payne introduced HB 649, a bill which would legalize and regulate online gambling, in February of last year. One would have thought that it would be this bill that the representatives would vote on, but instead, up for a vote were two amendments to a different online gaming bill, HB 1925.

The two amendments, A7622 and A7619, are quite similar, save for one major difference. A7622 includes language – in addition to online gaming – that would permit non-casinos to have video gaming terminals (VGT’s) on their premises. VGT’s are video slot, poker, and other video gambling games most of us have seen at casinos. In some states, places that are not casinos are permitted to have them. Sometimes they can pay out in cash, though in many circumstances, only payments in store credit are permitted.

A7619, which Rep. Payne says is essentially his bill in duplicate, does not include the authorization of video gaming terminals. Both of these amendments were put to a vote and both were defeated, A7622 by a vote of 66-122 and A7619 by a vote of 81-107.

According to industry expert Steve Ruddock of OnlinePokerReport.com, it got a little nuts after the votes. Payne was listed as the author of both amendments, but actually voted against A7622, the one that included VGT’s. As it turned out, A7622 was actually created by Representative Mark Mustio – the inclusion of Rep. Payne’s name was some sort of clerical error. But because Payne’s name was on it, many legislators who were in favor of VGT’s voted against A7622 because they just assumed that it was the amendment that did not include VGT language. They knew Payne was not for VGT’s, so naturally they figured that an amendment written by him (again, this one was not) did not include VGT’s (which this one did).

Those representatives then voted against A7619, thinking that if both were struck down, both would be reconsidered and the vote could be redone. Both amendments will, in fact, be reconsidered, we just don’t know when.

Pennsylvania has one of the fastest growing gambling industries of any state in the U.S. and is one of the reasons why Atlantic City has struggled to draw visitors in recent years. Those in Pennsylvania who wanted to gamble – particularly those in the eastern part of the state – used to have to head across the border into New Jersey for the gaming entertainment. But now with resort-style casinos in Pennsylvania as well as neighboring Maryland and Delaware, there are many more options for residents of all these states.

New Jersey and Delaware have legalized online gambling, so it is only natural that Pennsylvania would want to compete in this area, as well. It’s not that people are necessarily going to cross state lines just to play online poker, but by legalizing online gambling in Pennsylvania, the state could keep even more gamblers within state borders as well as convert online gamblers into visitors to the state’s casinos.

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