Online gambling in Pennsylvania is starting to look like the real deal.

In an op-ed that appeared in on Wednesday, Representative John Payne and Representative Nick Kotik made a strong case for legalizing online gambling in Pennsylvania.

The two are the sponsors of HB 649, a bill that would legalize and regulate online poker and online casino games in Pennsylvania. Payne and Kotik are the Chairman and Democratic Chair of the House Gaming Oversight Committee, respectively.

Making the case for PA online gambling

The op-ed begins with Payne and Kotik making the following arguments for legalization:

  1. Pennsylvanians are already gambling online and instead of Pennsylvania receiving millions of dollars in tax revenue, the money is going overseas.
  2. These overseas sites are often loosely regulated or unregulated, posing a safety concern for players.

“It makes no sense to leave online gaming unregulated, and sit idly while the state loses out on this income and players are unprotected,” Payne and Kotik noted.

“Enacting this legislation would regulate an industry that is operating without any type of protections right now. It will provide funding for the state and make Pennsylvania casinos more competitive.”

As if these statements weren’t powerful enough, the op-ed concludes with the simple yet poignant sentence, “Simply put, regulating online gaming is a win/win for Pennsylvanians and the state.”

Public support for legalization

Citing a recent poll commissioned by Caesars Entertainment in which 58% of respondents believed online gambling should be strictly regulated, Payne and Kotik remarked, “Pennsylvanians support what we’re trying to accomplish with our bill.”

The duo went on to detail some of the other positive results of the poll, including:

  • 65% of respondents felt online gaming revenue should be taxed and the proceeds used for vital state programs.
  • 80% of respondents believed the state should make online sites use new technologies to assure that minors do not have access to online gaming.
  • 52% of respondents said online gaming operators should be required to use technology that limits losses, deposits and the amount of time an individual can play.

These results were a direct contradiction to the results of a widely-criticized Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling poll just weeks prior.

HB 649 would deal with these issues

Payne and Kotik also explain how their bill would bring about the consumer protections Pennsylvanians supported in the poll results.

“Our bill offers the types of strict regulations needed to make online gaming work as it should in our state,” Payne and Kotik state.

The safeguards that would be created by HB 649 are many and include:

  • Setting deposit and loss limits.
  • Employing geolocation technology capable of prohibiting out of state players from participating.
  • Utilizing player verification checks in order to prohibit minors from gaining access.
  • Enacting new criminal penalties to curtail illegal, unlicensed sites.

The economic implications are also persuasive

The op-ed finishes by detailing some of the revenue projections that have been submitted.

According to Payne and Kotik, the industry could bring in as much as $120 million in its first year (this figure is likely a combination of tax revenue and licensing fees), and as much as $113 million annually.

A more cautious estimate was proffered by Robert DellaFave.


Payne and Kotik’s sustained and vocal support for online gambling is a positive sign for iGaming expansion in Pennsylvania, and hearkens back to Senator Raymond Lesniak’s vociferous crusade to bring online gambling to New Jersey.

This is something that, as Chris Grove has noted, has been absent in California, and a key reason Pennsylvania has jumped ahead of California as the most likely state to pass an online gaming bill in the opinion of many industry experts.