A group of Pennsylvania lawmakers have introduced a bill that would ban social casino games from being offered by casinos in the state.

No progress on budget, but a bill on social casino games

While little progress on Pennsylvania’s budget has been made since a soft deadline was missed at the start of the month, legislators continue to introduce bills that have nothing to do with balancing the budget, trimming the state deficit, or bridging the divide between Democratic governor Tom Wolf and the Republican legislature.

The new bill from Representative Eddie Pashinski (D-Luzerne) fits into that category. While regulation of online gambling and other changes to gaming law had been on the table before the budget impasse, gaming issues have largely stayed off the radar this month.

The bill (text here, tracking here) is a short one, and simply amends Pennsylvania gaming law to include the following passage:

No licensed facility, principal, principal entity, key employee or affiliate of a licensed facility may hold any financial interest in an enterprise that offers, through the use of communications technology, simulation of an interactive game, including, but not limited to, any simulated gaming that would otherwise be considered a nongambling game not requiring a license under the laws of this Commonwealth.

The bill has eight co-sponsors and was referred to the House Committee on Gaming Oversight on Monday.

Why target social gaming?

Pashinksi revealed his intent for the bill in a co-sponsorship memo he released in April:

Simulated interactive gaming, which includes free-to-play social casino games, have been made widely accessible to our youth.  A recent academic study has found that one in 12 teenagers surveyed had played simulated gaming apps on Facebook and one in 16 teenagers had played such apps on smartphones.  Additionally, the study found that minors who engaged in simulated gambling were over three times more likely to report gambling for real money.  Simulated gaming that is being marketed to our youth by casinos is essentially grooming them for gambling habits.

It’s not the first time that a legislator has taken this stance on social gaming. The conservative forces behind the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — a bill that would ban internet gambling — have previously thought about including social casino games in the legislation.

Social gaming is big business. Late last year, Eilers Research estimated that the industry generated $2.7 billion in revenue.

Bill’s chances moving forward?

The bill does have two Republican co-sponsors, but Pashinski is a Democrat. It seems unlikely in the short term, that the bill could gain much traction in the Republican-controlled legislature.

The legislature has bigger fish to fry than dealing with this bill, which casinos probably would like to weigh in on via a committee hearing. The bill also came a day before Penn National announced it would expand staff for online gaming (paywall).

The GO committee has no upcoming meetings, and unless this somehow gets attached to an overarching budget bill, its chances for this legislative session seem to be virtually nil.