While Pennsylvania now offers a whole host of online gaming options, including slots, poker, table games, and more, this was not always the case. Elected officials traveled a long, hard road to reach legalization. Below is a short timeline of the more crucial moments that led to online gambling legalization in the state.
October 2017: Governor Signed Pennsylvania?s Online Gambling Bill Legalizing Online Gaming
On October 30, 2017, Governor Tom Wolf officially signed Pennsylvania House Bill 271 into law. This lead to a major gambling expansion that included the introduction of online casinos in Pennsylvania, among other things. The law authorized everything from online poker to online table games and online slots.
Also, this law made sports betting legal in Pennsylvania. The state permitted sports betting both in physical land-based casinos and online. It also created space for?online lotteries and enabled participation in daily fantasy sports. The bill also made mini-casinos legal, created the option for video gambling terminals to be added to qualified truck stops, and enable airports to add tablet gaming in certain areas.
Timeline Of Important Dates In The Legalization Of Online Gambling In PA
Of course, October 30, 2017, is the most important date in the timeline of the legalization process. It took, though, many steps over several years to reach this point. Meaningful attempts towards the legalization of online gambling started in 2013. Each successive year saw important steps that ended with legal online gambling in the state.
See our full guide to Understanding The Pennsylvania Online Gambling Bill and our Comparison of Pennsylvania Online Gambling To Other US States.?
Timeline Of Legislative Action In Pennsylvania At A Glance
|October 2017||HB 271||Senate and House Pass HB 271. Governor Wolf signed bill into law legalizing online gambling in PA|
|July 2016||HB 2150||Stalled in the State Senate|
|June 2016||HB 2150||Passed the State House with 155-80 vote|
|June 2015||SB 900||Coalition of State Senators introduced bill with 54% tax rate|
|April 2015||HB 649||Hearings on legalization in House Gaming Oversight Committee|
|March 2015||HB 695||Attempt to legalize online poker only|
|June 2014||SB 1386||Attempt at legalization with results of economic impact study|
|December 2013||SB 273||Commissioned economic impact study|
|April 2013||HB 1235||Attempt to legalize poker and other online games, but restricted small games of chance|
History Of Legalization
April 2013: House Bill Introduced As Early Attempt To?Legalize Online Gambling In Pennsylvania
The first attempt to bring online gambling into Pennsylvania occurred in early 2013. Representative Tina Davis introduced PA House Bill 1235 to legalize poker and other online games, including table games and slots. The bill, however, proposed online restrictions on small games of chance, such as the lottery, keno, and bingo.
As would become customary over the years in Pennsylvania, this bill ended up stalled and never made it through the legislature. There were concerns about the effects of gaming expansion. The House tabled the bill and never picked it up again. Instead, elected officials started to introduce different bills to take the steps towards legalization.
December 2013: Senate Commissioned A Study On The Economic Impact Of Online Gaming
The introduction of HB 1235, although not successful, at least demonstrated interest in online gambling in the state. Introduced in December of the same year, Senate Bill 273 commissioned a study on the expected economic impact of the legalization of online gambling. The Senate awarded the work to Econsult Solutions, a public policy consulting firm based in Philadelphia.
June 2014: An Attempt To Pass Online Gaming With A Gaming Tax Saw Little Interest
Shortly after the passage of SB 273, Econsult delivered its results. Econsult determined that Pennsylvania was likely to make $184 million in the first year of legalized online gambling in the state. The state could earn over $300 million in the following years.
State Senator Edwin Erickson used the results of this study to introduce Senate Bill 1386. This bill also introduced an attempt to legalize online gambling in Pennsylvania. Like the 2013 attempt, the bill also stalled. Senator Erickson was unable to drum up much support and it never led to a vote.
March 2015: Continued Attempts Made To Bring Online Gambling To Pennsylvania
State Rep. Nick Miccarelli introduced PA House Bill 695 as the next attempt at legalization. The bill would permit online poker only as a compromise to those who opposed more widescale online gambling.
Under the proposed bill, each legalized operator would pay a $5 million licensing fee. They would also be subject to a 14% taxation rate for any interactive gaming revenue. Like earlier attempts, the bill saw little movement and ultimately faded away.
April 2015: House Bill Allowing Online Gambling Referred To Gaming Oversight Committee
Not to be deterred, a month after Rep. Miccarelli introduced his compromise bill, State Rep. John Payne introduced a comprehensive legalization bill. Representative Payne introduced House Bill 649 to regulate and legalize online gambling in the state.
Payne was the chairman of the House Gaming Oversight Committee at the time. Although more bullish than his predecessor, after numerous hearings and meetings, the bill stalled in Committee.
Around the same time, House Bill 920 was also proposed to legalize online gaming but met similar results.
June 2015: Third Bill In One Year Introduced In Another Attempt At Legalization
For the first time, a group of State Senators pulled together in a joint effort at an online gambling bill. In June of the same year, State Senators Joseph Scarnati, Kim Ward, Elder Vogel, and Robert Tomlinson introduced Senate Bill 900.
By joining forces, the Senate bill was one of the?first serious attempts to push for legalization.?Unlike some of the other bills introduced in 2015, this one pushed for a $10 million fee for permits and a 54% tax rate on all gaming revenue.
June 2016: Bill Introduced To Link Online Gambling And Fantasy Sports Passes The House
In 2016, the idea that an online gambling package would pass became more and more likely. While little occurred in the early months of the year, late June saw a contentious vote around House Bill 2150. With a track record of failed and stalled bills, HB?2150 ultimately succeeded.
Like its predecessors, HB 2150 introduced legal online gambling in Pennsylvania, but with some compromises. For example, the bill removed the addition of video gambling devices at truck stops and bars. This was one of the more contentious parts of prior legislation.
House Bill 2150 passed with a vote of?155 to 80. The bill still needed to pass the Senate to become law.
July 2016: The Senate Chooses To Pass The Ball On Online Gambling Bill
When HB 2150 made it through the House, it moved on to the Senate. Unfortunately, the bill was not immediately voted on. Although elected officials agreed that legalized online gambling could generate revenue to help fund the state budget, it stalled once again. This is despite Gov. Wolf stressing the importance of the bill to future state budgets.
The Senate considered a watered-down version of the bill while still attempting to bring in the revenue needed for the state budget. The Senate agreed to hold off until the fall for a vote on HB 2150.
Unfortunately, in the interim, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled a part of the state’s gambling laws violated the state constitution. This caused another unanticipated delay pushing off any further action until 2017.
October 2017: Legislative Action Moves Bills To Governor’s Desk For Signature
Four long years after Rep. Tina Davis first introduced an online gambling bill, the Pennsylvania House introduced House Bill 271 in 2017. Unlike prior attempts, the bill moved relatively quickly through various committees on its way to becoming law.
After several revisions and compromises, both the House and Senate signed the bill on October 26, 2017. The Senate passed the bill with a 32-18 vote. The House followed passing H.B. 271 with a 109-72 vote. The bill moved to the governor’s desk where he signed the bill into law on October 30, 2017.