January, 2017 Update: Online gambling regulations in Pennsylvania have yet to pass, with current projections citing the end of Q1, 2017.
Pennsylvania Online Gambling Timeline
In 2016, Pennsylvania’s HB 2150 - which mandates the regulation of online poker, casino games and fantasy sports - made it through the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with a vote of approval from Governor Tom Wolf’s office. But the Senate has thus far failed to bring the bill to a vote, and it currently awaits approval via a complementary bill designed to fix an unconstitutional tax on brick and mortar casinos.
HB 2150 has come a long way in a very short time span, the reality being that it is a revision of an earlier bill first introduced in early 2015 by Rep. George Dunbar.
But Pennsylvania lawmakers have been trying to pass iGaming legislation as early back as 2014, when Senator Edwin Erickson first introduced Bill 1386 as a bid to regulate online poker.
Also known as the Fantasy Sports Consumer Protection Act, HB 2150 was reintroduced in June, 2016 when Rep. John Payne’s HB 649 (then widely considered to have the best chances of becoming law) failed to win over the House.
Championed by Payne, who before retiring at the end of the 2016 Congressional session, was Pennsylvania’s greatest advocate of online gaming regulation - HB 649 was passed over as a result of dueling amendments.
This prompted the resurfacing of HB 2150, albeit with new amendments of its own, including provisions to regulate online casino gambling. HB 2150 soon after sailed through the House, and while widely considered to have a good chance of passing the Senate, the greater unknown was if the Senate would move forward with the bill. All in all, HB 2150 was pinned to be part of a broader revenue package that included $100 million in projected operator licensing fees earmarked to go toward a looming $31.5 billion fiscal budget in 2017. But that didn't happen.
In the Fall of 2016, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that a provision of the Gaming Act of 2004, which imposed tax sharing on land-based PA casinos, was unconstitutional. In order to reform this tax provision, the Senate added a temporary amendment to HB 1887, which was initially introduced as a problem gambling reformation bill. This left HB 2150 on the Senate sidelines. However, before the close of the 2016 legislative session, the House further amended the bill to include the legalization of online gambling, daily fantasy sports and mobile gaming from airport tablets.
Rep. Payne, who was highly effective at appeasing a diverse range of gambling interests and those more or less opposed to gambling expansion, had long expressed optimism that HB 2150 would make it through the Senate, and thereafter signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. More recently, Senator Mario Scavell0 - Chairman of the Senate Community Economic and Recreational Development Committee - has forecasted that online gambling has the needed support from lawmakers to pass.
While HB 2150 may not be the bill that ultimately makes it to Governor Wolfe's desk, it is widely believed that much of the verbiage in HB 2150 will be implanted in the bill that ultimately makes online gambling legal in Pennsylvania.
Please visit the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board for official updates: http://gamingcontrolboard.pa.gov